Seton Hall Pirates, Big East, Record: 3-4, KenPom: 57, RPI: 137, SOS: 70
Overview: The Pirates traveled straight to Massachusetts following yet another disappointing loss. Seton Hall trailed by double digits for most of the first half against Arkansas. They were able to climb back into the game via a methodical, half court type of game. The Pirates took the lead, 51-50 with just under 7 to play, but then went on a scoring drought for over 4 minutes. Arkansas won 71-62.
It seems like the Pirates have played much better in the second half in every game since the Hazell injury. The team has not been embarrassed, but also cannot seem to get over the hump down the stretch, whether it be a fade away 3 pointer, a missed call, or a 4+ minute scoring drought, the Pirates have found a way to lose.
Tonight's game has a lot on the line. UMass was merely a cupcake on last season's OOC schedule, but this season, it could be one of the most crucial games yet. A loss surely indicates that this team is incapable of winning without Hazell and can be a precursor to some concerning internal troubles. What do I mean by this? The team would drop to 3-5, and still without their best player for over a month. You can fill in the blanks.
Massachusetts Minutemen, Atlantic 10, Record: 7-2, KenPom: 109, RPI: 129, SOS: 181
Overview: The Minutemen have impressed so far this season, coming off a lowly 12 win total from last year. Derek Kellogg's squad has already tallied 7 wins, although it hasn't been against the toughest of foes. Their most impressive win has come against Rider, according to KenPom.
UMass started 7-0, but have dropped their last two games against Boston College and Maine. According to their KenPom profile, the Minutemen aren't particularly bad at anything, but aren't great at anything either.
The Minutemen live and die by the performance of star guard Anthony Gurley. He fouled out after shooting 25% from the field and scoring 12 points against Maine - the team went on to lose by 12, at home. Jordan Theodore, Keon Lawrence, and maybe even Eniel Polynice are going to need to shut down Gurley without taking silly fouls. Theodore plays tough defense, but tends to take bad fouls while pressing, especially on his risky attempts to take a charge.
If the Pirates can successfully shut down Gurley, that will be the biggest step towards pulling off a win in Amherst.
KenPom Prediction: Seton Hall 71, UMass 70
...UMass is a good team that has lacked one thing over the years, a great point guard to run Kellogg's dribble-drive offense. So far, the team is doing just dandy at 7-2 as Anthony Gurley has gone from second banana behind 20-a-game man Ricky Harris a year ago to becoming a capable leading scorer. Freshman point guard and 5'9" lightning bug Daryl Traynham leads the team in assists, but at just 3.2 a game. Nevertheless, it's a better situation than last year, when Harris led the team in assists with just 2.9 a game in addition to being the team's leading scorer...
Seton Hall is coming off a 71-62 loss to Arkansas in the 2010 DIRECTV SEC/BIG EAST Invitational on Wednesday. Junior Jordan Theodore scored a career-high 24 points in the loss. Eight players played at least 10 minutes vs. Arkansas. Saturday's game at UMass will be the Pirates' sixth game away from the Prudential Center through the season's first eight games. Leading scorer Jeremy Hazell is out until mid-January with a broken bone in his left wrist.
UMass Basketball Derek Kellogg Previews Seton Hall Game (via UMassAthletics)
UMass Basketball Preview Of The Game Against Seton Hall (via UMassAthletics)
As always, Lets Go Pirates!