#7 Notre Dame v #10 Seton Hall, 7:00PM
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Radio: 770 WABC, WSOU 89.5 FM
Projected Starting Five: G-Harvey, G-Theodore, G-Hazell, F-Robinson, F/C-Pope
As mentioned throughout the day on ESPN, tonight's game between ND and Seton Hall could very well serve as a play in game for the Big Dance. With USF and UConn focusing on an NIT berth and Cincinnati relegated to winning the BET, a final BE bid could come down to ND or SHU. While Seton Hall has already beaten the Irish at The Rock on February 11, 90-87, they could complete a sweep tonight, making it very difficult for the committee to select the Irish over the blue-and-white. Their contest in February turned out to be quite a close game before it was decided by Notre Dame missing two open 3PT attempts as time expired.
While Seton Hall shot relatively well against Providence for the first 30 minutes of the game, the last ten were a different story. Shot attempts clinked, clunked, short armed, finished long, rolled off the rim, and banked off the glass, as the Seton Hall faithful could only muster a nervous chuckle as they held their breath in fear. The doubt even started to creep into the better FT shooters on the team as they often (2-of-6 in final 42 seconds) came up short during critical attempts.
The Pirates won't have the opportunity to play with another 29 point lead in the BET, but if they don't make their FTs and continue to play poor defense, they may very well find themselves the squad down 29. Notre Dame is playing exceptionally well with four straight wins ( vs. Pitt, at Georgetown, vs. UCONN, at Marquette [in OT]), but their improved play goes even further back than that. They beat USF by three, lost to the Hall by 3, lost to St. John's by one, and UL by two (in double OT). Save Marquette, Notre Dame has played in some of the closest games in the conference, finding themselves on both sides of the W-L tally. If we remember correctly, SHU has played in some close games too (SU, WVU, USF, MU), but in the extremely tight contests, they've more often than not wound up on the wrong side of the box score. This game should come down to which team has not only learned to play with a lead, but to close out their opponent when things go array. Last night when faced with adversity, the Pirates panicked. Gonzo called on Billy Wagner in the bottom of the 9th nursing a 5-0 lead and the Pirates escaped with a 5-4 victory after they walked the bases loaded. If Seton Hall can go Mariano Rivera on Notre Dame, they may find themselves with the pretty girl at the dance, while ND goes home with the ugly duckling.
A look at tonight's game:
Sophomore Herb Pope became the first Seton Hall player in history to finish the regular season as the BIG EAST leader in rebounds per game. The Aliquippa, Pa. native pulled down 11.1 rebounds per game, which was more than a full rebound ahead of the second place individual (Harangody, 10.0 rpg).
A few good articles from Brendan Prunty of NJ.com:
For the Pirates, they’ll have the bonus of knowing that they were able to have their way with the Irish with and without Luke Harangody, since the All-American went down in that game. Getting the ball inside to Herb Pope will be the key.
"At one point, I had to ask myself, ‘What’s really wrong with me?’" Lawrence said. "I had to get myself so focused on playing good basketball. The way that everybody is playing now, we’re jelling together and I’m not playing my best."
And finally by Mr. Prunty, a look at the NCAA Tournament picture:
To this point, Seton Hall has dodged bullets in the mid-major championships and now comes time for the Pirates to take care of its own business.
Tonight's preview from SBNation:
SHU exerted a lot energy to hold off Providence last night, so go with the Irish and expect them to wear down the Pirates in the end.
Notre Dame 81, Seton Hall 73
And we wonder why Bobby G has an "us against the world mentality".
A look from our friends (but more foe tonight) Rakes of Mallow:
A Seton Hall win would make them 2-0 against the Irish and force ND closer to the bubble. The Fighting Irish would still probably be in, but we'd be sweating a little come early Sunday morning.
Joe Lunardi of ESPN has Seton Hall as one of the first four out:
First Four Out: Washington, Seton Hall, Ole Miss, Rhode Island
As Always, Let's Go Hall!