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(photo by Red Storm Sports. Some stats by Statsheet.com)
Seton Hall vs. St. John's is a local rivalry that has gotten 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 - add flavor to the matchup, as does the competition over the New York area recruits that don't go to Villanova, Pittsburgh, or West Virginia.
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 if they tried a little harder on defense in the second half.
The Hall is an interesting study in tempo-free team studies. They play so fast (69.9 possessions/ game in Big East play) that one would think their offense is great, and they give so many points that one would think their defense is abysmal.
The defense is certainly bad, allowing 1.12 points per possession; but the offense isn't very good either, scoring 1.06 points per. If you hold the possessions equal, they have about the same scoring margin that St. John's does:
But the Hall do not cheat themselves by turning the ball over, and that helps them stay in games - they always get their shots.
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?
Seton Hall Pluses
Assist to Turnover Ratio: They're very good at not turning the ball over and sharing the basketball decently. The Pirates aren't all great passers - Eugene "NuNu" Harvey and Jordan Theodore are excellent at handing out assists, but they're about it - but most of the team is looking to put the shot up, not get the ball where it can be stripped.
Jeremy Hazell: That Jeremy Hazell guy can really, really get shots up. From half court, or with a hand in his face, it don't matter. He takes 32.9% of the team's shots in Big East play. Plays 86.6% of the team's minutes. And scores 1.22 points per possession. If he's not on the Big East all-league team, people are just crazy.
Herb Pope's Rebounding: Even though his scoring efficiency leaves a lot to be desired, Herb Pope can really suck up rebounds, corralling an incredible 27.2% of defensive rebounds and 11.4% of offensive boards - both are first in the conference.
Seton Hall Minuses
Poor Defense: The Pirates have been a defensive sieve. If they don't get the first turnover in their press, the other team is off to the races; they do not defend the back of the press very well. They allow an effective field goal percentage (weighted for 3-pointers) of 53.2%.
Lack of Depth... or Trust: For a team that should be deeper, the rotation seems to be in flux, with different players coming off the bench in each game. Hazell is the only quality scorer who gets a lot of time (though Harvey is solid, and Jeff Robinson is coming on); the rest of the team is rather erratic.
Everyone Else's Rebounding: They're not good at getting second shots or restricting the other team's second shots. For a team that hung with the likes of West Virginia, it's surprising that they are 10th or lower in the league in offensive and defensive rebounding.
Read more pregame notes on Calm Before the Storm.
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.