The Game: Seton Hall vs. Xavier, 8:30 PM EST (Fox College Sports)
Seton Hall advanced to the semifinals of the Paradise Jam on Friday by knocking off Alabama 83-78 behind 27 points from Jeremy Hazell. Unfortunately for Pirate fans, Hazell will be out for 4-6 weeks with a broken bone in his left wrist. The Musketeers advanced after beating Iowa 86-73 behind 28 from Tu (formerly Terrell) Holloway.
Here's the scouting report on Xavier:
2010-11 record: 3-0
2009-10 record: 26-9 (14-2 A-10, tied for first)
Key Returnees: Tu Holloway, Dante Jackson, Kenny Frease, Jamel McLean, Mark Lyons, Brad Redford (out for season)
Key Losses: Jordan Crawford, Jason Love
Xavier is a team that is very talented yet again. They seem to regularly be the favorites in the A-10, and they have the ability to finish there again.
Leading them this year is last year's second fiddle Tu Holloway, who is averaging over 25 points per game so far this season with lovely percentages of .556 from the field, .353 from deep, and .861 from the foul line. Needless to say he is X's main scoring threat, and controlling him will be a big part of the Pirates' defensive gameplan.
But the Musketeers also have size, more size than the Pirates. 7-foot, 269-pound center Kenny Frease is going to be difficult to deal with inside due to his sheer mass (although, for some reason, he has only 1 blocked shot this season). This is where a guy like Aaron Geramipoor would have been useful if to do nothing but be 5 extra fouls that don't go to Herb Pope or Jeff Robinson. Xavier also has their own Jeff Robinson, but their version is 6'9". Lastly, the 6'8" Jamel McLean, a key player for the Musketeers last season, is coming off an orbital bone injury, but through 2 games he has averaged 10 rebounds per contest.
With all that size, you would think that Xavier would dominate the boards, but that has not been the case this year. Their second leading rebounder is the 6'0" Holloway at 6.7REB (astounding for a guy his size), and they have actually been out-rebounded by their opponents this season. Nevertheless, rebounding will consistently be a key for the Pirates, as they need all their bigs to step up against the amount of size that Xavier has.
Unlike Alabama, who shocked everyone by hitting 10 threes on Friday, Xavier has three guys who will shoot the deep ball: Holloway, 6'5" senior Dante Jackson, and 6'1" Mark Lyons, so the Pirates will need to pay attention when those guys drift behind the arc. Jackson leads in percentages with a 38.3 % mark. Their best shooter, Brad Redford, is out for the season, so that helps a little.
Xavier's main weakness is their depth and it's something the Pirates can definitely exploit with their own. The Musketeers go about six deep and that's about it. The Pirates regularly rotate 10 (well, 9 deep with Hazell out), and if the Hall makes their shots, they'll press all night long. The Pirates (specifically Jordan Theodore and the Pope/Robinson/Hall trio) can also exploit this lack of depth by taking the ball to the basket. If they can get Xavier into foul trouble (especially the guard positions and Frease), they can force Chris Mack to use his bench, which is a good thing for Seton Hall. Likewise, they must try and keep Holloway (who has attempted 36 free throws this season for an average of 12 per game) out of the paint. It will be interesting to see who wins the battle at the free throw line, because I think that could be the difference in the game.
It goes without saying that Seton Hall also must have someone step up in this game with Hazell shelved. Jamel Jackson and Keon Lawrence need to step up their games now, and it wouldn't hurt to get more production from Herb Pope. If Pope throws up a 0/0 in the first half of this game, the Pirates might be dead on arrival.
PIRATES WILL WIN IF:
- They can replace Hazell's production.
- They get Xavier into foul trouble
- They can control Tu Holloway's production
XAVIER WILL WIN IF:
- They use their size to get their talented guards open looks and into driving lanes
- Holloway dominates the game
- Frease throws his weight around inside.
This won't be easy with no Hazell as a safety net. The Pirates must defend if they want to win this game, because if they give up 50 percent shooting to Xavier like they did to Alabama, it will be one long night for them. They'd better get used to defending too, because they will have to win that way until Hazell comes back.