Over the past few years, I’ve learned one simple thing about being a Seton Hall basketball fan: savor the little victories.
I talked to several students since last night’s game ended and the general consensus was that they needed to see a little more than a 20 point thrashing from the Pirates over the University of Massachusetts to feel fully confident in this team which, to me, is a little silly.
The non conference schedule in college basketball has always been filled with cupcake games, not just for Seton Hall but for other major schools as well. Given the rugged and downright brutal non conference games Seton Hall has had to endure thus far, I would say this win was absolutely vital. After the jump, I discuss what I liked and what I didn’t like.
Sitting in the WSOU studios following the final buzzer, I had way too many thoughts on my mind. If I tried to write anything at that moment, my brain more than likely would have melted. I decided it would be best if I got a good night's sleep and wrote my feelings down the following morning. Here I am, sitting in front of my television watching ESPN, and my mind is still running in 20 different directions.
I figured that the best way to describe my thoughts was to run down a full summary of my feelings on each player on the roster based on what they've been doing lately. Without further ado, let us begin.
Thank God for...
The first half benching against Arkansas seems to be an isolated incident, so let's pretend it never happened for now. Herb Pope is starting to regain his full health and nobody should be happier than Pirate fans. When I saw Herb down in the Student-Athlete Academic Center back in September, I was astounded at how overweight he was. He looked completely out of shape, nothing like last year's Herb Pope. His hard work has definitely paid off, however, seeing the shape he's in now. He looks good and he's moving well down low. His 11PT/13REB effort last night is a small chink in the chain, but an important one. He's definitely going to need to be in full shape come Big East play and he looks well on his way to that form.
Nobody is happier than I am that Jeff Robinson finally looks back to his old self. Jeff is probably my favorite person on the team for a couple of reasons. First of all, Jeff doesn't have an ego. He's confident, calm, and collected both on and off the court. It was my personal opinion that Jeff, under the direction of draft scouts, changed his game in an effort to seem more attractive to NBA teams. Big mistake. Jeff makes his living as a 'rim rat.' Last year he was most effective when he hung out under the rim and stole offensive put backs. He's a wrecking ball on the glass when he's down low, on both offense and defense, something which the Pirates desperately need. Last year he also took great shots as I've noted before. He shot over 50% from the field as a result of wise shooting. This year, he moved away from that and focused more on his long ball. Last night, despite hitting two out of the four threes he attempted, Jeff looked more composed under the rim and was more like that J-Rob of old; more so than any other game we've seen this year anyway.
I almost didn't want to put Jordan Theodore on this list for his turnovers, but his play goes beyond the numbers and that's why I had to. Four turnovers is something I can look past last night for the way he distributed the ball. He penetrated with confidence and scored with vigor, something I really like about him. He knows exactly when to be selfish and when to be unselfish, and that's the mark of a true point man. His 17PTS were a team high for the night, to go along with a game high 8AST. In fact, Jordan had one less assist by himself than the entire Massachusetts team had. He looked calm in the half court set and focused on fast breaks. His head was constantly on a swivel on both offense and defense, taking note of where each player was on the court. He has had good games this season, but his play last night was incredibly impressive and something I pray will continue into this home stretch.
Fuquan Edwin is another guy who has impressed me so far, statistics aside. Fuquan was dubbed the program's future before he had even logged a minute of action, something some players let go to their head. I can already see that Fuquan is poised and free of nerves, and for a freshman...that's huge. He doesn't just look ready to play in regular rotation, as he has been, but he's confident enough to take any shot he wants. Fuquan has done nothing to make me shake my had yet which, as sad as it is to say, is a sign of good things. He passes well, his confidence is incredibly impressive, and he moves well off the ball. The future is bright for Fuquan.
Ready for a breakout...
Patrik Auda's performance last night was a great sign for Pirate fans. He adds legitimate depth to a rotation with little identity, something which I desperately hoped for in the preseason. Despite his awkward looking shot, Auda has big deep threat abilities and similar confidence to that of Fuquan. He attacked the rim last night with force which is definitely something I wasn't expecting. Auda was billed as the outside bench shot, but last night he proved he can be more versatile than that. He seems to be logging more minutes these days which is something I love. I look forward to his progression as the season continues.
The thing about Jamel Jackson is that I don't think he's ever really going to break out. He's just not as talented as some of the other guys on this team. He definitely adds a solid outside shot and energetic court presence, which is something the Pirates are desperately needing in the absence of Jeremy Hazell. Jackson's 40 point barrage against Virginia Military last year seems to be an anomaly of sorts, but Jamel's presence is definitely valuable. He is a good passer and, as I mentioned before, is a three point specialist. I definitely think Jamel has found his niche and, as long as he stays focused, he could be a vital part of this Pirate bench going forward.
Ferrakhon Hall had his breakout last night, so technically he should be on my first list...but for the fact that I think he still has more breaking out to do, I'll leave him here. Ferro's presence is becoming better known each game. It was his first offensive breakout of the year, dropping 15 points and playing generally, some good basketball. There are some issues, however, such as foul trouble and rebounding. He needs to be stronger under the rim. There is no reason for Ferro to be hanging around the three point arc...at all. He needs to be underneath the rim, working the glass and grabbing second chance points. He makes way too many personal fouls as well, something that boils down to discipline. That's where the coaches come in, and I'm confident they can fix Ferro's issues. All he needs is some confidence...and to actually, you know, play down low (aka play his position).
Well, at least he's trying...
I don't know what to believe about Eniel Polynice anymore. I thought, as most people did, that having an experienced guard transferring from a good basketball program would be a blessing in disguise for this team. So far, it hasn't much any kind of blessing whatsoever. Polynice gets lost in the shuffle and sometimes I even forget he's on the team. He isn't as good of a ball handler as I thought he was and, frankly, I wouldn't be opposed to him seeing less minutes in the next few games. I know he won't because the Pirates have two cupcake home games coming up (then again, with this program, nothing is a cupcake anymore), but he really hasn't impressed me much. Good thing it's still early in the season.
And I just keep scratching my head...
I don't even know where to begin. Keon Lawrence shows flashes of brilliance, followed by complete treachery, then rinse and repeat. On a positive note, Keon has clearly been the best lockdown defender on the team. He plays defense like white on rice which is something any team would love to have. For me, it all goes south once Keon touches the ball on offense. His ball handling is absolutely atrocious. Whichever scout said he was a good ball handler and a solid point man has been exposed as a liar. I also find it hard to believe that he only had 2TOs last night because I saw many bad, bad plays and potential turnover situations all starting in Keon's hands. Keon keeps me scratching my head every time he touches the court.
In your opinion, which player has the most to prove in the remaining non-conference slate?