UPDATE (10:25 AM ET): Per a thread on PirateCrew.com, Brandon Mobley said that he will be suiting up for the game tonight. A welcome addition at this point in the season.
After a little bit of a layoff with a long, 8-day gap coming, the Pirates look to keep the ole' ship rolling along as they host an ACC foe in the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest. Here's all you need to know about this matchup, the first time Seton Hall has ever hosted Wake:
2011-12 record: 6-3
All-time series record: 3-2
Last meeting: 12/5/89 (76-74 SHU W in overtime)
THE LINE: SHU -11.7
The last time these two teams met was the season after the Pirates' run to the national championship game. Last season, Wake was (to put it nicely) not very good, finishing just 1-15 in ACC play as well as last in the conference in both offense and defense. So therefore, there is literally nowhere to go but up for this year's squad.
The similarities between the two teams are almost creepy. Both teams are young, and both like to push the pace, but both teams are also not deep by any stretch, with the Pirates going 7.5- deep and Wake going 8-deep. Both are also led (and clearly so) by their starting point guard and power forward. But the similarities end with Herb Pope- he outclasses Wake on the boards almost by himself. Rebounding is the Deacons' biggest weakness, with two players tied for the team lead at just 5.3 REB. Not good.
Leading the way for Wake are Travis McKie and C.J. Harris, each averaging over 18 PTS this season on very efficient percentages. McKie is a well-rounded post player, and just a sophomore to boot, who's shooting it at a 50% clip from the field, 41% from behind the arc, and 75% from the free throw line (getting there frequently as well). Harris has been pretty good as well, shooting the ball at over 50% from both the field and beyond the arc with a 78% mark from the FT line, getting there just as often as McKie. Both of them have their turnover issues, but they clearly lead the team alongside combo-type guard (who also has his problems with turnovers) Tony Chennault. The focus of the defense will be to contain Harris and McKie, though, and considering that Wake Forest is terrific on free throws (as they were last season), positioning will be key in containing the tandem that get to the line over 6 times per game.
Wake has some other players as well- Chase Fischer is the best shooter on the team (he's only a freshman as well) and the Pirates will need their zone to be active when he's on the floor. Georgetown transfer Nikita Mescheriakov is a big who has a midrange jumper that he can extend out to the arc, but doesn't shoot a great percentage and doesn't rebound well. Carson Desrosiers (in addition to having a really cool-sounding last name, especially when you say it with a French accent) is a pretty good passer for his size and also is averaging 3 BLK this season. He's a 7-footer who will likely take his shot at Pope alongside McKie and Mescheriakov.
Two other bigs that Wake has are shot-blocking 7-footer Ty Walker, who makes his return after being suspended for a violation of university conduct. Indeed, alongside bit forward Daniel Green, Wake's front line is pretty tall, which makes the rebounding struggles all the more puzzling. They have a couple guys who can block shots and some depth in the post, which coach Jeff Bzdelik may want to use to his advantage. The Pirates, though, are awaiting the debut of Brandon Mobley, and it could be tonight that the freshman finally gets onto the court. We have no idea either way, but we're sure the Pirates would love an extra body against the Deacons if they could get it.
Seton Hall will win if:
- Pope continues his run. Again, Wake's glaring weakness is rebounding the basketball, and there is no one on the team who can match up with Pope. In fact, if you combine Wake's two leading rebounders- McKie and Desrosiers- they still don't equal Pope's average of 11 REB. Woah.
- They keep Wake off the free throw line. The Pirates are not deep, and Wake Forest is a good free throw shooting team. McKie and Harris practically live there, and they are a big reason why the Deacons shoot it at 70% as a team from the charity stripe. It's the season of giving, but the Pirates need to be Scrooges in this game in this regard.
Wake Forest will win if:
- They get production from their bigs other than McKie. Getting Walker back is a plus for this team, and having shot blockers is nice to try and keep Pope under wraps. But the Deacons need some points from their other bigs will be big for this team if they can get it.
- They contain Pope. Did I mention this matchup is the key to the game for both teams? I wasn't kidding.