Boy... there's bad offense, terrible offense, and Seton Hall's offense.
In descending order.
This 17- point drubbing by Cincinnati over the Pirates, 70-53, was a great reflection of exactly what is wrong with the Pirates, namely, they cannot score and lack a concrete offensive identity.
- (Lack of) Ball Movement
The Pirates did a lot of standing around on the offensive end AGAIN tonight. All that does is waste time on the shot clock, and with no fail-safe scorer like Jeremy Hazell on the floor, that won't get the Pirates anywhere. There must be MOVEMENT on the offensive end in order for the Pirates to generate points.Standing around and watching Jordan Theodore dribble is not going to do it. Running high screens like they were going out of style is a nice idea, but even that won't work for 40 minutes. Movement off the ball must occur for this team to do anything on offense against Big East- caliber defenses like Cincinnati's.
- Identity forming?
The Pirates fed Herb Pope the ball constantly down the stretch. He was fouled much of the times that this happened, and actually made most of the foul shots he was awarded down the stretch. So that was nice to see. That could be somewhat of an offensive gameplan, but its a risky one given Pope's penchant for not making FTs. But at this point, what choice does Seton Hall have? They have to find scoring somehow.
- Keon Heating Up
Thank goodness for Keon Lawrence. Without him, the Pirates would not have even stayed in this game. He scored a SHU career-high 15 PTS and pulled down 6 REBS to pace Seton Hall. Not only that, he continued to look like a much more confident player out there. This is the Keon Lawrence Pirate fans thought they were getting when he transferred in from Missouri- a capable 10-15 point scorer who can play adhesive defense and run a little point. What we haven't seen yet is the reason he was nicknamed "The Human Pogo Stick" coming out of Weequahic High in Newark, but they don't need that contribution from Lawrence. They just need his points and his confidence.
- Jordan Forcing It?
Jordan Theodore is a great player. He's a phenomenal defender at his position and has great ball skills to run the point while dropping an occasional jumper and/or a slashing layup. But when he's trying to score too much, when he's trying too hard to score, he ends up either forcing shots or turning the ball over. He had zero assists and 4 turnovers tonight, and apart from a few layups made NOTHING happen on offense. He was largely invisible tonight, and he can't be invisible against Peyton Siva on Wednesday, Scoop Jardine on Saturday, and basically all the point guards you can name in the Big East.
- Willard's Coaching
For those who were calling for Kevin Willard's head on Hall Line, stop it. It's not happening. Willard has a plan for the program that is consistent with the image the university wants to project. He wants to bring in high-character guys who will play defense and get Seton Hall's reputation back to where it once was.
Coaching-wise, he has made some questionable decisions this year, but it has not really been the reason the Pirates have struggled. If anything, he has not rode the team for their lack of movement on their offensive sets. That I will call him out on. Also, he has not used Anali Okoloji like I think he should.
But let us step back and remember these things- a) he is a first-year coach in the Big East, the toughest conference in the nation for college basketball, b) he lost his best scorer and player suddenly and without warning, and c) the team is playing great defense. Seton Hall this year is one of the better defensive teams in the conference, and the game tonight was closer than the score indicates. Because of the defense, they have been in every game. They just go cold at the worst times, and as much as this frustrates fans, the difference has been largely the ability to make shots. Teams have realized the way to beat Seton Hall this year is to make them a jump-shooting team, and right now the Pirates just aren't making enough shots to convince anyone to play them otherwise. Guys just have to step up and make plays/shots, and so far it has been said, but not done.
I've always believed that the coach's job is to put their players in position to succeed. Has Seton Hall been put in that position? Yes, because of their defense. The offense has not produced like fans want, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the players are not in position to do so. Do they take bad shots? Yes. But that is more on the players than the coach. Willard is always talking about his offense flowing through the point guard. But when the point guard forces shots and doesn't make plays, the offense stalls, yet Willard gets the brunt of the blame.
No one seems to want to blame players for their own failings on the court today. I believe that Willard has put the team in position to produce because he has his team completely bought into his defensive attitude. The issue is that "the guys on the court just have to make plays." You know who said that? Jordan Theodore.
Some food for thought in the new year. Hopefully it will bring good fortunes to the Pirates