I recently sat down with Christopher Lane over at I Bleed Blue and White (Fight, Fight, Fight for the Blue and White and the glory of Seton Hall -- Oh wait, wrong team?) and exchanged Q&A's in advance of the Villanova contest on Tuesday night. In part 1, we're answering the questions for IBBW, so in essence, we're walking the plank here. Then again, with the way this season is going, we're quite used to that by now. Tomorrow, we'll drop part 2, where you'll have IBBW's answers to our equally enticing and thrilling inquiries.
Chris (IBBW): Do you think Bobby Gonzalez is making it a priority to guard Scottie Reynolds this year? I heard he did well against you last year. Just so you know, we plan on leaving Jeremy Hazell wide open all game like we did in the 1st half last year.
Bob (GB): First, let me note, it seems (especially to Big East foes) like Scottie has been playing college ball for 12 years. Keon Lawrence, a transfer from Missouri, has been pretty much a bust offensively in his 11 games with the Pirates, however, he has worked his way into the starting #2 large in part for his ability to play tight defense. I expect Keon to shadow Scottie for the majority of the game in an effort to try to contain him. If Lawrence can hold Scottie under 20 points, I'd view it as a job well done. Lawrence most recently defended Dominique Jones last Thursday night and while Jones was good for 28 points, Keon played tight defense, Jones just hit contested jumper after contested jumper. As far as Hazell, he did drop 24 against the Wildcats last year, but it was on 9-of-24 shooting. If Hazell puts in a similar effort on Tuesday, the Pirates will have little chance of securing the upset.
Follow the jump for the rest of part 1:
Chris (IBBW): What do you make of the light suspension for Keon Lawerence? Bad example for the future or are you okay with it? Also, what do you make of the Gonzo era so far?
Bob (GB): Keon was suspended for the first 8 (non-conference) games of the season. There are still a ton of mysteries surrounding the accident and I'm not sure whether all the facts will come out until his case is heard. We heard he was driving under the influence, yet his BAC levels came back under the limit. Then in a surprising twist, last week he turned himself and posted bail answering to reckless driving charge that states he was operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Was he over the limit or not? Questions that will likely go unanswered until his pending court date. As far as the suspension, I think it was fair, he was suspended for 8 games and wasn't allowed to come back and play until the BAC tests came back, stating he was not under the influence. I feel the university was nothing short of fair and professional in their punishment for Keon.
The "Gonzo era" is probably best defined at this moment as exciting basketball that has yet to deliver on a NCAA berth. If things continue as they are this year, it'll be Gonzo's fourth year and fourth year without seeing the big dance. Bobby was brought in to improve recruitment in the NJ/NY area, however, he's had his problems with recruiting, "academically-risky" players, evident most recently with Jesse Morgan. Morgan signed a LOI to play at SHU next year, but enrolled early at UMass because he couldn't post a qualifying SAT score. With only Fuquan Edwin on board to play at South Orange next year, you'd have to wonder if the potential recruiting prowess Bobby was supposed to possess is greatly outweighed by a lack of postseason play. Keep in mind, Seton Hall fired Louis Orr who brought an over performing squad to the tournament twice in three years. There were whispers that Orr and the administration had their differences, but still, Orr was let go because he wasn't viewed as being successful enough for the program. Two NCAA at-large bids and an NIT appearance in his five years at the Hall is leagues ahead of Gonzalez's SHU resume at the moment.
Chris (IBBW): Seton Hall was picked as the breakout team this year, but after a 3-5 start you don't hear as much about the Pirates any more. Is the NCAA's still a possibility or does this team not have what it takes?
Bob (GB): Well, I agree they were a sexy pick based on the hype surrounding the transfers, most notably Herb Pope and Keon Lawrence. Pope has lived up to expectations for the most part, however Keon Lawrence has been noticeably absent. Jeff Robinson, the transfer from Memphis, has contributed tremendously to the little success they've had this conference season. That being said, they were projected by the Big East coaches and the media to finish 10th in the conference and those close to the team felt the projections were way off, even borderline disrespectful. However, at 3-5 with back-to-back road games at ‘Nova and Pitt, the Pirates are two losses away from being 3-7 in the toughest conference in basketball and changing their focus to fighting for an NIT invitation.
Chris (IBBW): Other than Mr. Hazell, who does Villanova have to really watch out for on Tuesday?
Bob (GB): Herb Pope. If Seton Hall stands any chance of upsetting the Wildcats, Pope will need to play the game of his life. He's leading the Big East in rebounding at 11.4RPG, a full 1.4RPG ahead of 2nd place, Jamine Peterson. Despite ripping 17REB against USF on Thursday, USF flustered Pope offensively limiting him to 5PTS on 2-of-10 shooting. Pope will need to play much more efficiently against Antonio Pena on Tuesday. See the game Pope had last week against Pittsburgh where he dropped 19PTS/9REB on 8-of-12 from the floor. A duplicate effort will be needed from The Pope of South Orange if they're going to stay close with ‘Nova.
Chris (IBBW): You know and I know that Villanova wants to run, and there are few teams in the country who can keep up with them. Will Seton Hall play that game or try to slow it down as much as possible?
Bob (GB): Make no mistake, these two teams play the same style offensively, however there's clearly a difference in the talent at hand. They both love to run and Seton Hall will even prefer the two teams run, however, the problem is, Villanova does it better, much better. That being said, the Pirates did defeat the Panthers last week at Pittsburgh's own game, focusing on defense. Will Gonzo drastically alter his game plan in an attempt to slow down Tuesday's game? I don't believe so. I think Seton Hall will be able to keep up with the Wildcats for much of the first half, but there will come a point where Hazell starts missing his shots, the Pirates will go through a scoring drought and the flood gates will open for Villanova. It's important for Seton Hall to raise their defensive intensity from what was on display at South Florida in an attempt to slow Villanova during these stretches. If their defense doesn't respond, the boys from Jersey are in for a long night at the Pavilion.
Chris (IBBW): Give me a prediction for Tuesday.
Bob (GB): For the reasons stated in the last question, I'm going to go with Villanova 85, Seton Hall 73. I'll take it one step further and give the Pirates some life with a half time score of Villanova 43, Seton Hall 39.
...Thanks again Bob!...and good luck tomorrow night so long as it doesn't interfere with ours!...