Continuing our pregame Q and As with writers who cover the other team, I asked JP from South Orange Juice to break us off a little bit of intel on the Seton Hall Pirates. Their season hasn't quite gone the way they planned (11-17 so far), and the team has a number of flaws, which I will get into in the pregame analysis tomorrow.
Speaking of tomorrow, check back here in the AM for a very special post!
This question and answer session was conducted well before the recent news of a gun charge against Jordan Theodore; not sure if this means that he'll have to sit out tomorrow or not... we shall see. St. John's is getting ready for the game, either way.
Let's get to know the Pirates... below the fold.
1. So how do you feel about the job Kevin Willard has done in South Orange/ Newark? What has he done well, what does he need to improve on?
I feel good about the job Kevin Willard has done so far, although I may be in the minority on that one. He has done his best given the circumstances- Jeremy Hazell’s injury really affected the W-L totals, and any coach would have struggled when you lose a guy who was that big a part of the offense, let alone a first-year Big East coach. On the court, he got a group of guys who couldn’t defend their own shadows to become one of the better defensive teams in the conference. Even better, they take pride in their defense now. The offense most definitely needs work, but he will have his own players in the program who will theoretically run his system better than the current group.
Off the court, he did the right thing getting rid of Jackson and Lawrence, two guys who provided nothing but headaches. He has made this team into a disciplined, defense-first unit, and for that he deserves a world of credit. No one ever said cleaning up Gonzo’s mess would be easy, or quick.
2. Why is the offense so... bad? Conversely, how is the defense so good? What are the guys doing right on that end?
The offensive numbers for the Pirates are way down because of the pace the team plays at on that end. The Pirates are not getting out in transition as often, aren’t getting as many layups, and have been sort of exposed as a team that can’t really shoot straight outside of Hazell, and even Jeremy hasn’t been very sharp this year after his return.
The defense is so good because of effort and practice. Much of Willard’s practices are devoted to defense, and the Pirates have become very, very good at switching on the fly from man-to-man to a 2-3 zone that has been alert and active. Again, the team takes pride in their defense, and it shows on the court.
The attitude around the program brings to mind the word "caution." People are in general agreement about two things:
- That Willard needs to be given a chance when his own players come in to show what he can do
- That this team should have done better given the returning talent.
The team still is playing hard- they haven’t really laid too many eggs this year. They just have trouble finishing games (as they had last year as well). Keon and Jamel being off the team helps I guess because it shortened the rotation that needed to be shortened. When Jordan Theodore came out and basically agreed with the dismissals, that signaled to me that it was a good thing.
4. How are the newcomers coming along? Do they look like future Big East stars?
The freshman are looking good, but not great. Fuquan Edwin is a slasher and a good defender who right now makes too many freshman mistakes on defense (fouling jump shooters, etc…). Edwin has to work on his erratic jumper and his handle, but he has the tools to be an elite wing defender in the Big East if given time to develop a little more strength.
Patrik Auda and Aaron Geramipoor need to become more athletic and hit the weight room over the summer (especially Geramipoor). Auda is skilled for his size, and both are very smart players who can definitely develop into solid players. Geramipoor is already a good help defender, which is slightly amazing to me considering he missed half the season with mono. Both players are legit in terms of height as well (Auda at 6’9", Geramipoor at 6’11") and you can’t teach that.
5. What is there to get excited about in the near future for the Pirates?
Well, next year will be a struggle. A lot of underclassmen will make up the bulk of the rotation for the Pirates, with Herb Pope as the main holdover. The offense will improve, I think, because of the fact that it will have to do so if the team wants to be competitive with all those underclassmen. The new recruits are going to get playing time right away, so they will be given a chance to show what they’ve got. There’s always that chance that they could put it all together and pull a big upset as well. Next year will be a down year, but some new blood will ease that feeling a little. Change is what Seton Hall is all about lately, with a new president, new AD, new coaches, and the process will continue next season with a new team.
BONUS: I don't know if you make it to many games, but do you have places you like top go to eat/ drink/ be merry in Newark?
Well, there are two places that come to mind- one is the Brick City Bar and Grill right across the street from the Rock (a bit expensive, but generally worth the price, plus big portions) and the Port 44 Brew Pub on Commerce street a few blocks away (we did Hall Line, our postgame call-in show on WSOU, from there after the UConn game; nice people, good atmosphere).