Its that time of year again here in South Orange, NJ with the start of another basketball season expectations are again high, maybe higher than they should be heading into this season and the phrase "The time is now" is being thrown around as if the Pirates are in the preseason top 25. There are those out there who will say that this Pirates team is no better than those of years past and is less talented than last year team which in many eyes under performed. I on the other hand see this team as one who can quietly fly under the radar winning a few big games here and there and finishing in possibly the top half of the Big East Conference.
All the pieces are in place for this season to be a positive, the only negative so far is KJ's being ruled ineligible. Willard is coming into his second year undoubtedly more comfortable with the current players he has and being able to mold a game plan around their talents, and from what I have been hearing this is going to be an exciting team that plays at a fast pace with a high intensity level. The senior leadership is there and its at 2 very important positions the PG and the C in JT and Pope. And this is now a fully healthy Pope who should be back to the old Herb from 2 years ago who lead the conference in rebounding. These 2 guys have high expectations for themselves to go out on a high note and I believe they will. Fuquan Edwin should have a fantastic season now that he will see the bulk of the minutes at the wing and he is coming off of a solid freshman season and a fantastic summer and I look for his play to get better as the season progresses. Auda the projected starting forward may be one of the most important players on this team. He is a big who has the ability to step outside and knock down the 3 consistently which should stretch the defense and allow Pope to operate in the post. He is also coming off a stellar performance at the University Games in China over the summer where he led his country in scoring and rebounding. One spot in question this season is the 2 guard from all accounts I have heard or read Cosby will get the nod to start the season and he has shown that he deserves the chance by the way he has played in practice and in early scrimmages. I will be watching him to see if he can be what the Pirates need, a solid on ball defender and timely scorer, to help this team succeed.
Now to the bench players. This group of guys will play a vital role in this teams success. Its imperative that every team have 2-3 solid players who can be inserted into the lineup at anytime without interupting the flow of the game. These guys will be Karlis, Wilson, and Geramipoor. Karlis has been a favorite of mine ever since he has stepped on campus this past summer he has the body 6'5" 185lbs and tools to be a matchup nightmare on the wing coming off the bench. He is freakishly athletic and has Hazell type range. If this team plays uptempo and gets out in transition he may be THE most exciting player to watch. Wilson may be the most important player who will see minutes off the bench especially if JT finds himself in foul trouble as long as he can handle the ball and run the offense and play solid defense he will help this team in a big way. Geramipoor will also play a role in allowing Pope to get some rest but also if he and Pope are played together it will allow Pope to play at his more natural PF position. He has bulked up and is healthy this year, after battling mono last year, and I look for him to provide important minutes off the bench.
Willard I believe will get the most out of this team by playing a style that fits well with there talents. He is a players and should have them playing a high intensity brand of basketball that will be fun to watch. I believe this team will have a chance to win 20-23 games and be dancing in March. For now its time to sit back and watch.