Well, it wasn't exactly the goal of this year's squad to make it to the NIT, but the Pirates find themselves as a 1-seed this year, barely missing out on the Big Dance. Whether you feel they were snubbed or not, there's still more hoops to be played.
And this time, it'll be on the Pirates' true home floor at Walsh Gymnasium, as Seton Hall draws the America East regular season champs, the Stony Brook Seawolves, in the first round of the 75th annual Postseason NIT.
Here's what you need to know about the Pirates' Long Island-based opponent:
2011-12 record: 22-9 (14-2 America East)
All-time series record: 2-0
Last meeting: 12/31/02 (71-48 SHU W)
The Seawolves have come a long way under head coach Steve Pikiell. When he took the job 7 years ago, Stony Brook was on academic probation, and a perennial bottom feeder in the America East. The Seawolves have only been in Division-1 since 1999, and in their first 7 years at this level, went 55-140 overall, and 32-84 in the America East (a conference they joined after two seasons as an Independent).
But the last few years under Pikiell have seen the Seawolves become a contender in the America East, as Stony Brook has won 20 games in two of the last 3 seasons (two years ago and this season, earning NIT berths both times) while making at least the semifinals of the America East tournament in each of the last 3 years.
Last season, the Seawolves made the America East final despite finishing 6th in the regular season, but lost to Boston University on a foul called with 2 seconds left on BU star John Holland, who made both FTs to ice it. This season, Stony Brook actually hosted the championship against Vermont, but they could not overcome a rough first half, and word is that they are not taking that loss well, as the Seawolves have never been to the Big Dance.
But Stony Brook is a tough team with some local NJ talent, the most prominent of which is their leading scorer, First Team All-America East guard and Scotch Plains-Fanwood alum Bryan Dougher (pronouncer DEW-er). Dougher is Stony Brook's Jeremy Hazell- he's taken 234 threes this season (!), a mark that's nearly double than that of the next closest teammate, and has made a very good 36% of those shots. He has range from the parking deck, and the Pirates will have to be very aware of this. Vermont did a very good job on him in the A-East Championship, and he's a guy that can bust zones wide open. A dangerous player to contend with because of his ability to hit from anywhere inside halfcourt on a dime.
Joining Dougher is America East Defensive POY Tommy Brenton. Brenton is a very intriguing player- he is also First Team All-America East, and despite standing only 6'5", is the Seawolves' leader in rebounding, assists, and steals. He's the ultimate glue guy, and doesn't look to score, but to make plays on offense, and hustle on defense to get rebounds, steals, and the like. What he does on the court is very, very important to what Stony Brook does on the court, and that makes him just as valuable as Dougher, if not more valuable.
The Seawolves also bring some size down low with Dallis Joyner, a more traditional post player at 6'7", 275 pounds who shoots it at 60% around the hoop, and Al Rapier, who can also finish around the basket in sometimes-creative fashion. Danny Carter, Eric McAllister and JUCO transfer Ron Bracey provide some depth down low as well.
In the backcourt with Dougher, Dave Coley is the second leading scorer for Stony Brook. Coley is the playmaker from the guard position off the bounce who is versatile on the court- not tremendous yet in any one area, but able to score, shoot, dish and defend. Also in the backcourt, the Seawolves bring Anthony Jackson, Marcus Rouse and Leonard Hayes, each of which can shoot the ball from deep if left open, although they don't shoot it often.
What has made Stony Brook so good this season is their defense, however. They have not allowed a single opponent to score 70 points on them in the last 22 games (they're 19-3 in that stretch), and are allowing just 42% shooting from their opponents overall this season, and 59 points per game. They play both zone and man, and try to make everything in the paint difficult. This game could turn into a defensive struggle, and Stony Brook would like to keep it low-scoring against a more-talented and athletic Seton Hall team.
Seton Hall will win if:
- They make their threes. One area of weakness for the Seawolves is their defense beyond the arc; they allowed opponents to make 34.9% from three. Only DePaul had a worse mark in the Big East than that this season. Seton Hall, meanwhile, was the best 3-point shooting team in the Big East this season, at 36% from deep. If the Pirates can knock down threes on the same court they've practiced on much of the year, they'll be in excellent shape. Speaking of home court....
- Walsh is Rocking. Seton Hall has won 20 straight games on campus, but hasn't played a meaningful home game at the historic Walsh Gym since December 4th, 2000 (in that game, the late Eddie Griffin, then a freshman, recorded the only triple-double in school history against Norfolk State as Seton Hall won by 10). Because this is a rarity for Pirate fans, if the place is packed (which I think it will be), and is loud like Walsh has been known to be when you get that many fans into the place, it will buoy the Pirates to victory. Pack Walsh. Make it loud. Support your team.
- Pope and Theodore take over. Stony Brook doesn't have much shot blocking at all on their roster. That should make Pope's eyes widen- he's struggled this year going up against the shot-blockers of the Big East. Theodore, meanwhile, will probably be one of if not the most talented player on the floor Tuesday night. He's led the Pirates this far, and now it's time for him to continue that trend in the postseason. If Theodore can get into the paint and make plays, Seton Hall will win.
Stony Brook could win if:
- Dougher goes off. Bryan Dougher is a local kid, from Scotch Plains, and he has Jeremy Hazell-like range. He's the player who could keep the Seawolves in the game if things get out of hand for them on the defensive side of the ball with his shot-making ability. Although the Seawolves would much prefer if...
- The game stays in the 60s. Or even lower. Stony Brook has prided themselves on defense all season long, and they can't get into a score-fest with the Pirates, who are extremely good on defense themselves.
I will be in the building for WSOU Tuesday night, and I'll be on the broadcast at halftime for some analysis, plus hosting Hall Line after the game ends.
The best way I know to show that you've been snubbed from the Big Dance is to just go out and win. Both teams are reeling from disappointment in the last week or so, but the Pirates have the home court, and the edge in talent. Time for the seniors to lead the team and get it done.
Hazard Zet Forward to all!