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Seton Hall vs. St. John’s is a rivalry that has gotten a little spicier in the recent years, with Bobby Gonzalez’ ego demanding a bigger stage when his Pirates are the road team (he wants the game to be played in Madison Square Garden) and with St. John’s refusal to acknowledge his complaints. The personalities of the coaches – one quiet and humble, the other demonstrative and brash – come into play, as does the competition over the New York area talent that doesn’t go to Villanova, Pittsburgh, or West Virginia.
So basically, this is a game of two mangy dogs scrapping over some bones, looking to mark some territory. So be it. Both teams come off of two wins. Each has beaten Notre Dame – the Hall beat them in Newark, St. John’s beat them in Indiana. St. John’s enjoyed a home win over the Louisville Cardinals, and Seton Hall hosted the DePaul Blue Demons for a win that should have been easier.
The Hall play so fast that one would think their offense is great, and they give up so many points that one would think their defense is abysmal. The defense is certainly bad; but the offense isn’t very good either. If you hold the possessions equal, they would be giving up about the same scoring margin as St. John’s does. Which explains why their record is about the same as St. John’s. But their shooting is terrible, even with Jeremy Hazell. They’re not particularly adept rebounders on either end. They do not draw fouls, but the foul the other team a fair amount. In fact, everything points to the Pirates being a terrible basketball team…
Except they do not cheat themselves by turning the ball over. Though it looks like their turnovers are high because they play a fast game, they squeeze more shots out of their pace than most other teams would. They don’t get in bad spots before putting up a shot, they don’t get the ball stolen (though Eugene Harvey has some bad moments in ball protection), and they get an okay number of steals in a game. If a team always has a chance to put up a shot, they have more of a chance to score points. It’s a delicate balance with Seton Hall, trying to win without winning the free throw shooting battle or the battle of the boards; but if they finish every possession with an attempt, they always stand a chance of surprising their opponents.
Both the Red Storm and the Pirates want to keep up the winning ways. Who will win the clash in Carnesecca? Which team will step out of the league basement?
Tip Off: 7:30 PM, Wednesday, February 17
Location: Carnesecca Arena
Radio: Bloomberg 1130/ WSJU
Seton Hall (14-9, 5-7)
2 G Keon Lawrence JR 6’2 177: 5.2 ppg* 2.1 apg* 2.6 rpg
12 G Jeremy Hazell JR 6’5 188: 22.4 ppg* 3.3 rpg* 1.9 spg* 35.7% 3PT
32 F Jeff Robinson JR 6’6 230: 10.1 ppg* 5.4 rpg* 52.6% FG
15 F Herb Pope SR 6’8 236: 11.4 ppg* 11 rpg* 1.9 bpg* 42.4% FT
10 PG Jordan Theodore SO 6’0 170: 24 mpg* 8 ppg* 3.3 apg* 1.9 spg
23 F Robert “Stix” Mitchell JR 6’6 180: 21.7 mpg* 8.8 ppg* 4.2 rpg
22 G Jamel Jackson JR 6’3 202: 12.5 mpg* 5.9 ppg* 39.3% 3PT
25 F Ferrakhon Hall FR 6’8 220: 11.286 mpg* 3.2 ppg* 2.1 rpg
Jeremy Hazell has been a real star in conference play. In fact, his game’s been so good that it highlights how mediocre the supporting cast has been. He can get to the basket a little and get his shot off seemingly anywhere after halfcourt. Of course, he has no conscience and could use to learn the word “judicious”, but he’s the team’s best player… even if he takes a Harangody-level percentage of his team’s shots without a hint of a pass attempt.
Eugene “Nunu” Harvey has improved his shooting, and despite being yanked in and out of the lineup, has been a decent point guard for the Hall. His turnovers are high on a team that is good about ball protection, though, so I can see why Gonzalez would take him out of games. Unfortunately, he splits time handling the ball not only with Jordan Theodore, who is a solid distributor but poor shooter, but also with Keon Lawrence. The Newark native and transfer from Missouri has been a terribly errant shooter, a mediocre distributor with no real sign of improvement… but he averages 22 minutes per game for defensive purposes.
Up front the Pirates feature Herb Pope, a player who passes the eye test, but not the numbers test. He’s a fantastic rebounder, but his scoring sense and ability leave a lot to be desired. His free throw shooting is incredibly bad at 39.5%. If Seton Hall played in closer games, teams would employ a Hack-a-Herb strategy in the waning minutes. Jeff Robinson has been crisp, strong on the offensive boards and efficient in his shooting.
With Jordan Theodore either starting or playing major bench minutes, let’s see who else comes off the sideline for the Pirates:
- 3 games ago against Pitt, Jamel Jackson played 24 minutes off the bench;
- 2 games ago Stix Mitchell played 18 minutes to lead bench players;
- and in the last game against DePaul, Ferrakhon Hall logged 13 minutes off the bench.
In conclusion, Bobby Gonzalez spins a color wheel on the sidelines and when it lands on a player, he gets some run. He has been a bit mercurial with the rotation, and for a team that would seem to have such depth in the shooter Jamel Jackson and the size of John Garcia (is he injured?) and Melvyn Oliver (who has had conditioning problems), one would think a few more players would get minutes. But the Pirates only play 7 guys (sometimes 8 players) anything more than 8 minutes apiece.
St. John’s (14-10, 4-8)
3 PG Malik Boothe JR 5’9 188: 4.2 ppg* 2.2 apg
23 G Paris Horne JR 6’3 191: 8.1 ppg* 2.8 rpg* 35.9% 3PT
1 G-F DJ Kennedy JR 6’5 215: 14.9 ppg* 6.5 rpg* 3.3 apg* 34.4% 3PT* 1.3 spg
2 G-F Anthony Mason Jr. SR 6’7 210: 6.6 ppg* 4.7 rpg* 1.9 apg
5 F Sean Evans JR 6’8 255: 6.6 ppg* 5.9 rpg
12 G Dwight Hardy JR 6′2 187: 22.9 mpg* 11.0 ppg* 40.3% 3PT
32 F Justin Brownlee JR 6′7 232: 19.9 mpg* 7.1 ppg* 5.3 rpg
24 F Justin Burrell JR 6’8 235: 18.7 mpg* 6.9 ppg* 3.6 rpg* 52% FG* 36.4% 3PT
31 PG Malik Stith FR 5’11 185: 12.3 mpg* 1.9 ppg* 1.4 apg
Coming off of a road win at Notre Dame, the Red Storm should brim with confidence. Burrell’s scoring 8 points per game in conference, shooting 52%, and still only playing 18 minutes per game. Will he be able to run with the go-go Seton Hall? St. John’s needs to slow the game down to get him the ball, and run with DJ Kennedy/ Dwight Hardy. Anthony Mason’s shot and athleticism seems to be inching its way back. And Malik Boothe has been hitting a few shots… the team’s weak spots seem to be improving over the course of the Big East season. It might just be weak opponents, but there are promising signs.
Keys to the Game
Be Good With the Ball. Giving the Pirates more chances to score is a bad thing; their defense is poor and can be scored on, but only if the Red Storm gets the chance to score. As well, A turnover gives the Hall a chance to score in transition, where they are dangerous.
If Hazell Has the Ball, It’s Probably Going Up. Defend Jeremy from the half court line. He’s not looking to pass the ball; if the ball is in his hands, he’s probably looking to set up and shoot it. Make him catch the ball out of shooting position; the whole team has to be cognizant of his presence.
Get Back on Defense. The Pirates will look to push the ball in transition and make the game into a fast-paced playground game. If St. John’s gets back and defends them into a poor shot, they can get going right back the other way.
Keep Up the Aggressive Offense. Work the post. Drive to the hoop. Don’t just take threes, but know when an open three is there and nail it. Seton Hall will send the other team to the line, but only if the other team is attacking their gaps.
Second Chances. St. John’s can’t lose control of the boards – they have to get second chances for themselves and keep the SHU forwards from generating tip ins and second chance balls.
Prediction: Can the Johnnies make it three in a row against a weak Pirates squad? St. John’s 74, Seton Hall 72.
Transplanted New Yorker and now Midwesterner Peter a/k/a Pico writes for the East Coast Bias and the Church of Bracketology and for Johnny Jungle, doing the Calm Before the Storm posts. Pico is also on Twitter, @ECoastBias.