Well, this one certainly wasn't a van Gogh, but the Pirates didn't cut off their ear to spite their record, as they pulled out the "W" to move to 8-1 on their 2011 campaign.
"Ned Ryerson?" Like death and taxes, and like Gonzo saying "like death and taxes," Herb Pope had another double double (yawn). The senior had his way with the Deacons, dropping 26 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. I'm not really sure how to say this folks, but Herb Pope is kind of a big deal. The numbers just don't lie; the man is an absolute nightmare for the opposition. What impressed me the most is how he played with two early fouls. He was careful, yet unyielding with his game. In years past, he would have fouled out. Excellent job by Kevin Willard for effectively managing Pope's minutes and position defence. As an aside, it amazes me how casual the Aliquippa native seems to be while steamrolling through whatever competition is placed in front of him. Make no mistake, he takes his job seriously and has tremendous pride in what he does, but the ease and efficiency with which he dominates is an art and can not be taught.
Balance: Again, tonight was not the Pirates' best, but they found a way to win. How? It was a balanced effort by the starters. The Captain, Jordan Theodore, had a relatively quiet 14 points and 4 assists on the eve of his birthday (more on this below). Fuquan Edwin had 14 points and 6 boards in a game I think he'd likely tell you he should have played better / score more. Patrik Auda had a hard fought 8 points and 5 boards and I feel that he's really close to breaking out and becoming a legitimate go-to play maker.
In stark contrast, however, the bench only contributed a total of 3 points on a deep bucket from Freddy Wilson (Karlis also grabbed 4 boards). We've spoken at length about the lack of depth on the bench and how critical it is that the Pirates stay healthy and as well rested as possible in anticipation of the grueling Big East schedule; this continues to be the biggest threat to this team at this point. That said, the bench logged a very important 37 total minutes, spelling Pope, Theodore and Co. While their offensive production didn't show up on the stat sheet, the minutes played is important to their development. I think it's important to note a quote Jerry Carino reported after the game from Kevin Willard in which he said, "...these guys are 19, 20-year old kids. If they’re getting worn down playing 32 minutes then they can never play in the NBA." It doesn't appear that Willard is overly concerned about Theodore and Pope logging as many minutes as they have been.
Sophmore Travis McKie lead the way for Wake Forest with 17 points and 7 boards. This is a very young Wake Forest team, and while I'm sure they are en route to becoming a better team overall, tonight they were just bad (they played significantly better in the second half with a clear game plan of driving to the hoop which was much more successful in the second frame). I could probably lull you to sleep writing about the similarities I saw with Wake Forest and Auburn, but I'd rather have a root canal than make my fingers type that. Lets just say that Seton Hall did what they should have done, and that was not open the door for an inferior opponent to jeopardize a home court victory. Period.
On a final note, I'd like to wish a very happy birthday to the Seton Hall Captain, Jordan "The General" Theodore. The student section really came through, as they sang a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday". I'm not sure if he heard it, but it certainly was audible to most in attendance. Well done indeed, students.
Much more analysis to come tomorrow with JP's 5 thoughts.