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Saturday, February 14, 2009


February 14, 2009

The two hottest teams in the Big East collide in a high noon showdown at the Prudential Center in Newark (NJ) on Saturday. The Connecticut Huskies, winners of 12 in a row and currently ranked No. 1 in the nation take on…Seton Hall? Yes, that’s right folks, outside of UConn’s 12-game win streak, the SHU win streak of five is the second longest in the conference now after Villanova’s loss last night.

Connecticut enters Saturday’s contest with an 11-1 Big East mark and a 23-1 overall record. The Husky defense has been devastating in recent weeks and they have not allowed more than 61 points in a game since January 21st, a stretch of six games where opponents are averaging just 55 points a game and just 0.815 points per possession.

With college basketball’s most intimidating eraser in the post, 7-foot-3 Hasheem Thabeet, the game plan and preparation of opponents is altered as often as their shots on gameday.

“For Thabeet we’re going to use a hockey stick for a couple of days to try to get ready for it,” SHU coach Bobby Gonzalez said this week in the coach’s conference call with media members.

For Seton Hall, 5-6 in the Big East, a date with the Huskies can be a true measuring stick of their progress this season. The Pirates began conference play 0-6, but have rebounding with five consecutive losses. However, UConn has more conference wins (11) than the aggregate total of the five SHU victims (9-48).

Seton Hall began their streak as the worst (statistically) defensive and rebounding team in the Big East. However, in their five wins, they have limited opponents to 63.4 points a game and a point per possession ratio of 0.97, which is a bit better than their seasonal mark of 0.996 according to In their six losses, SHU allowed 90.5 points a game and 1.23 points per possession. How bad is that mark? Well, of the 344 teams in Divison 1-A basketball, the worst ratio for any team on the season is 1.21.

Here are some pregame stories and previews on the contest:

Huskies Get First Look at What Life After Dyson Looks Like Today (Middletown Press)
Seton Hall Coach Bobby Gonzalez has Never Seen Anything like Hasheem Thabeet (Star-Ledger)
UConn Begins Life After Dyson (Connecticut Post)
Seton Hall Center Leads With His Legs (NY Times)
UConn Men: Stand or Fall (Journal Inquirer)

So, on Saturday we will get a chance to see where SHU is. There are some factors in their favor. One, UConn is dealing with an injury situation as junior guard Jerome Dyson is out indefinitely after tearing the lateral meniscus of his right knee in Wednesday’s 63-49 win over Syracuse. Two, UConn likely can’t help but peek at least a little bit toward Monday’s huge top five showdown with Pittsburgh. And, three, Seton Hall is a confident crew that has their coach believing big things are ahead.
“Seton Hall has been playing basketball for 105 years and they’ve never beaten a team that’s No. 1 in the country, not ever,” Gonzalez said in the conference call. “[UConn] is always going to be great, I’m sure. But eventually we’re going to beat them.”

Will that eventually come on Saturday? That is probably too tall of a task right now for SHU. Although they have a starting five that can play with anyone straight-up, it is when adjustments need to be made and different looks that SHU has no answer for while other teams can go to their bench or call on a different style of play.

SHU guard Jeremy Hazell is the league’s second leading scorer and will be looking to bomb away and he has the confidence to get hot and keep the Pirates in it. But in the end, Thabeet and Jeff Adrien are too much muscle inside and AJ Price is a steadying influence on the perimeter and veterans Craig Austrie and Stanley Robinson have stepped up before when Dyson missed time due to a suspension last year, look for them to do it again this season.

NBE Blogger Preview:

Connecticut 78
Seton Hall 64



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