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Seton Hall Basketball: Exhibition William Paterson Pioneers (0-0) @ Seton Hall Pirates (0-0) 7:00PM Open Game Thread

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After a LONG and tumultuous offseason, Pirates basketball is back and ready to kick off the 2010-11 campaign with an on-campus exhibition against the William Paterson Pioneers (Div. 3). 

William Paterson @ Seton Hall, 7:00PM
Walsh Gymnasium, South Orange, NJ
Television: Nope.
Radio: WSOU 89.5 FM

Twitter @GonzoBall @JPGuerette

Projected Starting Five: G-Theodore, G-Hazell, SF-Polynice, PF-Robinson, F/C-Pope

Update 6:34PM: Brendan Prunty reporting:

3 scratches for Pirates tonight: Anali Okoloji (stress fracture), Aaron Geraminpoor (mono), Keon Lawrence (coach's decision). #shbb

Jose Rebimbas, a member of the 1989 runner-up Seton Hall Pirates will return to South Orange tonight in his 16th season as head coach of the Pioneers:

He begins his 16th season at WP with an overall mark of 301-134. The all-time winningest coach in Pioneer men's basketball history, Rebimbas has guided the Pioneers to five New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) titles (2000-2002, 2006, 2010) and seven NCAA Tournament (D-III) bids (1997, 1999-2002, 2006, 2010), including spots in the 2001 national championship game, the 1999 Final Four and the 2006 Elite Eight.

Adam Zagoria provides a nice feature on Rebimbas for

Rebimbas, a member of the 1989 Seton Hall NCAA Tournament runner-up team, plans to attend his aunt's wake in Kearny, N.J. until about 6:45 p.m. Friday night before coaching his Division 3 outfit in an exhibition against the Pirates at Walsh Gym. Gametime is 7 p.m.  "I'm going to hustle to Seton Hall and try to catch tip-off," Rebimbas, 42, said Thursday night by phone.

What to look for: Sure, it's only an exhibition game, but that doesn't mean there won't be plenty to look for in the official (yet, unofficial) beginning to the Pirates 2010-11 season.  My three:

1) Defense: We've been spoon-fed Kevin Willard's defensive intensity since his introductory presser which continued through the entirety of the offseason.  I can't even put into words how excited I am to see it put into action, although I will try.  If there's one glaring difference this year's edition of the Pirates aim to bring to the freshly set dinning room table, it's defense.  Willard doesn't just preach defense to the media, he drills it into his players heads during practice.  It's clear he's more concerned about how they play on defense than their offensive game and for good reason.  As Willard stated in the Pirates media day, this team can score, but they've got a lot to prove on the defensive end after giving up 75.4PPG last season, good for 2nd worst in the conference, only outperforming Providence.

2) Eniel Polynice:  The senior transfer from Ole-Miss was brought to Seton Hall to concentrate on his graduate degree in communications.  Yeah...Well, that AND to be the missing piece to a Pirates program that finished an OT loss short of the NCAA tournament.  His numbers at Ole-Miss weren't outstanding, but they were consistent finishing with 9PTS/4REB/4AST/STL on just 41% shooting last season for the Rebels.  Projected to be the opening night starting SF, he'll be looked at to become the defensive leader of this squad and early indications are he's given Keon Lawrence a run for his money in that regard.  His one fault remains his jump shot and it'll be interesting to see whether he tries to find his shot tonight or instead focuses on using his athleticism to get to the rim to score his buckets.  We know he's going to be a terror on the defensive end, but like Lawrence, on a team with so many offensive weapons, they don't need him to fill it up, but rather play smart on both sides of the ball. 

3) Buy the Philosophy: The most important aspect I'm looking at tonight is whether the Pirates are ready to buy into Kevin Willard's philosophy.  Let's be real for a second, the Pirates are facing a D-III club in the Pioneers.  This game is going to be a blow out.  What's important is how focused they remain once we get to that point.  Whether that's ten minutes into the game, at halftime, or early in the second half, the Pirates are going to put this game away early, as they should.  Once that happens, how does the team react? Do they stay within themselves, play crisp and adhere to Willard's early teachings? Or with the game in hand, do they revert back to school-yard play, launching at will, attempting to fill up the stat sheet and playing lackadaisical defense?  I'd like to believe the former, yet, it's so hard to stay focused in these early exhibition games.  The team will be playing in front of their fans for the first time all season and rightfully, they're going to be excited.  To me, I'd rather see this team win by 15-20, with the starters getting about 15-20 minutes of action to get them going and get them out of the game.  Let's see how the role players and rookies (particularly those from overseas), have bought into Willard's philosophy.  The most important thing about tonight's exhibition game is to get the team on the same page and start clicking.  Obviously, that's not an easy task in the first exhibition game of the season, but I'd rather see the team play within themselves as a whole than try to put on a clinic as we've seen in years past.  

It's been a dreaded offseason.  It feels good to have Seton Hall Basketball back.  Buckle up and enjoy it, this season is going to be a fun one.

As always, Let's Go Hall!