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It's Time for Rakes of Mallow to Walk the Plank Part 2

In Part 2, we're put to the test as ROM interrogates us to speak on all things Seton Hall Basketball.  If you missed Part 1, be sure to click here, or risk missing out on the Luke Harangody pictoral tribute to his hair.  

ROM: It seems like most of the Hall offense goes through Jeremy Hazell, and he's responded with a productive season. What kinds of defenders bother him the most? What shots do you not want him taking?

GB: You're right in your assessment, even though it's still somewhat of an understatement. There's been entire games this season where it's looked like Seton Hall had one offensive set, Hazell around a screen for a deep 3PT attempt. We've seen many stages of Hazell this season, there's been the Jeremy that has (or nearly has) shot us out of games (0-of-10, 4-of-17, 14-of-33, 12-of-31, 5-of-20). Next, there's been big game Jeremy, or the nickname he's given himself, "Bigg Game Hazell." See the 41PT performance and his play at the end of regulation against WVU before the Pirates fell in OT. He followed up that performance with a 38PT game that kept the Pirates alive against Syracuse as he looked like he was well on his way to join Harangody and Reynolds as POY contenders.

His PPG looks productive at 22, just better than Dominique Jones for 2nd in the Big East behind Luke, however, PPG doesn't tell the whole story into his volume scoring. Against Villanova last week, he was having one of his most productive games of the season (12-of-23) 32PTS, when he was benched by Bobby Gonzalez with 4 minutes remaining. Gonzalez told the media immediately following the game that Hazell was benched for "going 1-on-5 with his head down," taking bad shots and complaining to the refs. Two days later, Bobby changed his tune in the Big East Conference call and blamed the benching on a lack of defense and the refusal to join his teammates in a huddle. The benching lasted through the start of the Pirates following game at Pittsburgh, where he responded by coming off the bench, shooting 1-of-7 from the floor and picking up his third technical of the season.

ROM: Herb Pope has a great big man name and a great big man game. Is there another Big East or NBA player, former or current, you'd compare him to? Does he have a post game, or do his points come from crashing the boards and easy lay-ups after guard penetration?

GB: Herb Pope does have a great name and Gary Cohen (NY Mets & Seton Hall play-by-play man) referred to him at the beginning of the season as, "The Pope of South Orange," a nickname that has stuck with me, although I'm not sure it has with many others. So far this season, Pope has shown both flashes of immense talent and also games where he's really struggled with scoring and shot selection. Pope absolutely dominated out of conference play, recording 7 double-doubles in 10 games. He began Big East play right where he left off, notching double-doubles in the first 3 conference games against WVU, SYR and UConn. His most impressive performance came at home against Pittsburgh, when he finished with 19PTS/9REB/3AST, while completely stopping Pittsburgh's inside game.

It hasn't been as easy as I'm making it sound for Pope as he's struggled constantly with foul trouble, fouling out last Saturday in Pittsburgh (20 min), against Louisville (34 min), at GTown (22 min) and against VT (18 min) in Cancun. As far as comparisons at the next level, the jury is still out. He's undersized at 6'8 to play center in the league as he's been forced to play at The Hall, but he should be able to develop into a serviceable 4 at the next level. We've seen him display a bit of handle, he can run, as evidenced by a little coast-to-coast dribbling before making the pass, he hit a few 3PT shots early on this year and most importantly, he's shown glimpses of an impressive post game, hitting 10-12 foot jumpers with a little baby hook mixed in for good measure. However, as of late, his jumper has looked off, he's been attempting difficult Duncan-esque angled bank shots off of the glass that haven't been falling and he's struggling to finish strong around the rim. Offensively, his last 3 performances have been forgettable (2-of-10 @USF, 3-of-9 @Nova, 3-of-13 @Pitt). With that said, Seton Hall hasn't had a rebounding and potential NBA-talent like Pope since the late, Eddie Griffin.

Follow the jump for the rest of plank walkin' where we dive into interior defense, the Pitt debacle and a prediction for tomorrow night.

ROM: How is the Hall's interior defense? Who's going to draw the assignments of checking Harangody and Abromaitis?

Their interior defense has also been a mixed bag this season, they're 13th in opponent offensive rebound percentage and they've been the victim of quite a few defensive breakdowns this season. Whether it's a lack of communication, strategy, personnel, or all three, the Pirates have struggled quite a bit this season when it comes to interior defense. Let's look at the evidence: Kevin Jones and Devin Ebanks of West Virginia combined for 41PTS/32REB, Wesley Johnson 20PTS/19REB, Jarrid Famous 15PTS/14REB and Gary McGhee's 12PTS/11REB Saturday at Pitt. On the other hand, they were able to limit Greg Monroe to 8PTS/9REB and Gary McGhee to 6PTS/4REB in the first contest. So, which defenders will show up against ND? Your guess is as good as mine. As far as Harangody, the impressive, athletic transfer from Memphis, Jeff Robinson, should receive that lovely assignment. In order to respect Abro's 3PT ability, I'd look for Robert Mitchell to defend Abromaitis as I'm not sure Pope will be venturing too far away from the basket to defend either. However, if they collapse their games inside, Pope will be more than happy to bang around.

ROM: It seemed like the Pirates had been playing some really good basketball until getting walloped by a struggling Pittsburgh team. What happened in that game?

GB: Following a 1-4 start to conference play, the Pirates took care of business at home, winning consecutive close, yet impressive games against Louisville and #9th ranked Pittsburgh.  The victories brought their record to 3-4 and breathed life back into a fan base who was still hopeful for an NCAA tournament berth. After being swept on the recent three game road trip (USF, Villanova, Pitt), the newfound life has been extinguished and the fans are realistically hoping that this team can earn themselves an NIT bid. Against Pittsburgh, the Pirates were coming off of a hard fought loss against Villanova, where it looked like Bobby Gonzalez threw in the towel in the final four minutes. Consequentially, The Pirates never got off of the bus to compete with the Panthers. Actually, they did get off the bus following morning practice when it got stuck in the snow and forced the Pirates to walk five blocks back to their hotel, something that Bobby Gonzalez mentioned may have affected his team. Forgive me as I roll my eyes.

ROM: Any predictions for Thursday night's game?

Both teams need this game badly, Notre Dame needs to solidify it's name squarely on the bubble as they'd look much better at 7-5, than 6-6, though they aren't eliminated by any means at 6-6. Seton Hall, on the other hand, will begin the tough task of attempting to finish, 7-1 or 6-2 in order to compile a bubble worthy 10-8 or 9-9 end of season conference record. The Irish have already won a road game (opposed to the Pirates), however they did fall to Rutgers. I think that the Pirates will take this one, if for no other reason than to keep our season alive for another game, before ultimately ripping our hearts out against a team like Depaul or St. John's.

Seton Hall 84, Notre Dame 80 (OT)

A big thanks to the guys over at Rakes of Mallow for participating in this week's Walk the Plank!