I've decided to post only one thought as opposed to 5 for the sake of time, and also because I don't want to beat a dead horse, so to speak. It's fairly obvious that the Pirates unbelievably slow start doomed them in the end, even if they did nearly come back.
The one thought? Tu Holloway showed exactly why Seton Hall will not only miss Jeremy Hazell over the next few weeks, they will SORELY miss him. He can take over games, and the Pirates would not have had as bad a first half as they did if Hazell was in the lineup. When these type of players recognize that either a) the defense can't stop them, or b) their teammates are struggling, they take over offensively. We'll call them, for lack of a better word, "superstars." Hazell is the Pirates' superstar, Holloway is Xavier's. Hazell was out with an injury, and nearly every player on both teams struggled. Even if you hadn't seen a box score, given those facts, you could guess what happened. Holloway went off, and Seton Hall lost.
As a fan, it's also excruciating to see a "Hazellian" shot win the game for an opposing team. Hazell himself has hit those shots numerous times in his career, only when he hit them, the team still lost the game. Talking with the guys at WSOU yesterday after the loss, I kept being reminded that NCAA tournament teams win a couple games they are supposed to lose, and therefore the Pirates will be fine because they are a NCAA tournament-level. I disagree to a point; this team hasn't won/stolen a game they were supposed to lose in years. It's not that teams that make the tournament win those games, its the other way around. That's why this loss is so hard to swallow, it would have been not only another monumental comeback, but also a quality win on a neutral court. Instead, it's just another empty comeback. The only thing missing was an "OT" next to that "L."
Anyway, now the Pirates are forced to settle for either 3rd or 5th place, depending on what they do tonight against ACC foe Clemson. Here's a brief scouting report:
2010-11 record: 3-1
2009-10 record: 21-11 (9-7 ACC)
Key returnees: Devin Booker, Demontez Stitt, Tanner Smith, Andre Young, Milton Jennings, Jerai Grant
Key losses: Trevor Booker, David Potter
Clemson's former head coach Oliver Purnell, who resurrected the Tigers back to relevance in the ACC, bolted for DePaul in the offseason to virtually everyone's surprise. To top it off, they lost their leading scorer and rebounder from last season in Trevor Booker.
Luckily for new coach Brad Brownell, Trevor's younger brother Devin has stepped into the starting lineup and performed well, averaging 10.3 PTS, which is second on the team behind senior guard Demontez Stitt (13.3 PTS).
Brownell inherited a team that had most of its main players outside of Booker returning. They have good overall team size, with 8 players over 6'5", and they go 8 deep as well. One thing they have done very well so far is force turnovers- 72 in 4 games (18 per game)- so the Pirates will need to take care of the ball offensively.
They are shooting a remarkable 51% from the field so far this season and 42 percent from downtown. They are struggling from the line a bit at 62 percent, so perhaps that is the way to try and stop them. From the turnover numbers and the high percentages, I'm guessing that they turn a lot of those turnovers into easy baskets, so that may be a way to stop the Tigers.
The gorilla in the room for Seton Hall is that they once again need someone to step up offensively. Jeff Robinson and Herb Pope put up good numbers in the second half, but that was too late to stop the Holloway Runaway Train from running over Seton Hall. Another slow start by the Hall will start the rumblings among the fans, and the Pirates would do themselves good by scoring more than18 points in the first half.
PIRATES WILL WIN IF:
- They continue to defend and force turnovers like they did against Xavier (44 percent shooting allowed, an average mark, and 15 turnovers forced from a team that had been averaging 11 per game)
- Someone steps up on offense to have a big day
- They don't get decimated inside by Devin Booker (6'8", 235)
CLEMSON WILL WIN IF:
- They continue to make shots at such a fantastic pace
- Devin Booker continues to play well on offense
- They win the battle on the boards (top rebounder only averaging about 5 REB).