Part 4 with Shawn from 'On The Banks of the Raritan' below:
OTBR: Which Seton Hall players deserve some consideration for end of year awards?
GB: If we're talking legitimate end of the year awards, opposed to Seton Hall awards, the only player in consideration would be Jeremy Hazell for All Big East. It'll be extremely tough for him to make the first team, however if he carries SHU in back-to-back road victories with a couple epic performances (think 30+ in each game, leading to W's) he'd have to be in the consideration for first-team. At this point, my BE first team would consist of: Reynolds, Johnson, Butler, Jones, Harangody, Monroe. Now, if Luke doesn't come back, he'll only have participated in 2/3rds of the conference season. Is that enough? I believe so, however if he doesn't get in, Jeremy's got a chance. In all likelihood, we'll see him on the second team.
As far as Seton Hall awards, obviously Hazell would take the team MVP, while Jeff Robinson would nab the MIP.
OTBR: What will it take for SHU to win more than 1 or 2 games in the Big East Tournament?
GB: To win MORE than 1 or 2?!?!? Good question. First of all, they would need to finish 9th or lower in the conference standings to ensure they get a first round game. At this point, it looks like they're safe in that regard as it would take them winning out (possible) and a complete meltdown by a couple teams ahead of them. If they advance into the second round, it's going to take a repeat of their best defensive performance of the season when they defeated the Panthers 64-61, holding Pitt to 35% FG shooting. Seconldy a big game from Jeremy is a must and why don't we sprinkle in a little "MSG magic" for good measure? To win more than two games? We're going to need to unscrew that "MSG magic" shaker and let it rain. With that said, if they can win their last two regular season games AND reel off 2 BET victories, I think they're in the dance. Unlikely scenario, but that's all that matters to me.
Follow the jump for a lengthy finish covering the BET, the future, and of course, Gonzo!
OTBR: What team other than Syracuse, Villanova, or West Virginia can you see winning the BET? Why?
GB: I am SURE this answer will surprise you, but I've got a feeling (and I realize that I can't use that phrase anymore without the atrocious BEP's song popping into heads, but oh well) that UConn is more than capable of pulling it off. Hear me out. At times this season, they've looked like a top 5 team in the country. They're battle tested, they love MSG and never have trouble getting up for games on the biggest stages. They've got a score to settle with the Orange (if not two after this year at Carrier), and can play with ANY team in the conference on ANY night. Oh yeah, they're led by a healthy (we believe) hall of fame head coach, Jim Calhoun. They lost a close contest with UK early in the year, but have beaten three heavyweights in: TX (when they were #1), @Villanova and WVU.
They're in the same situation as Seton Hall, where they'll need some luck to get a first round bye. Unlike Seton Hall, UConn would actually benefit from the first round bye. Why? They struggle against lesser competition, all year they've played down to their competition. It's to the Huskies advantage to weed out the bottom-feeders and if they can get past the second round, they'll be sniffing the NCAA tournament. At that point, why leave it up to the committee? If there's a team that can make a BET push and play their way into the dance, the Huskies are more than capable. Disclaimer: I strongly dislike the Huskies, yet have watched nearly all of their games this season and it pains me to say, they're MUCH better than their 7-9 BE record.
OTBR: How good do you think SHU will be next year? Who will be back? What do you know about in-coming players?
GB: That is such a tough question to answer as there are so many unknowns at this point. First, will Bobby be back? I'm 95% confident that he will be seeing as the University just gave him a 3 year contract extension last year (while he still had a year left, obviously a bad decision). However, try this on for size. Say the Pirates lose-out during their final two game road trip, that will leave them with a regular season record of 7-11 for the third straight season. After all of the off-season talk of NCAA expectations, the hype of the, "impact-transfers," and how they were headed in the right direction, can you imagine the reaction of the fanbase if they finish 7-11, AGAIN? It won't be pretty. Will it be enough for the University to eat a whole bunch of money? I highly doubt it. Let's say there's a buyout in place and they can save some money, good luck finding the next coach who's willing to come to SHU after canning Gonzo, ripping up a multi-year extension. Yeah, that would be a mess.
Oh, you were talking players? As far as the seniors go, we're losing a couple very likable, quality players in Eugene Harvey and John Garcia. As far as players leaving early, in the beginning of the season, I was worried we'd potentially lose two players in Pope and Hazell. At this point, we still may lose two, but Pope isn't going anywhere. I do think Hazell will test the NBA waters, let's be honest, he should. Hopefully he goes at it without an agent, the scouts talk him out of it, telling him he needs to improve various facets of his game (defense, dribbling with both hands, becoming a better distributor and more aggressive rebounder) and hopefully he returns. If he does leave to play professionally ball, Seton Hall will be in a world of hurt and our intrastate neighbors will be very relieved. Other than Hazell, Melvyn Oliver has been suspended off-and-on all season long in regards to his academics. If he doesn't turn it around in the classroom and in the gym, it would be very unfortunate for him (as a person) to lose his scholarship to Seton Hall.
As far as newcomers, after losing commit Jesse Morgan to UMass (after he failed to qualify for the BIG EAST), we're bringing in forwards: Fuquan Edwin, Eugene McCrory and fresh off his verbal commitment yesterday, Jamir Hanner. In most circles Edwin is recognized as a top 5 recruit in the state of New Jersey, while McCrory and Hanner are less well-known, but bring a strong, "diamond in the rough," potential. At the moment, there's still one scholarship available and with a glaring hole at the center position, the Pirates would love to reel in 6'10, Maurice Walker. If they can't grab Walker, I'm sure they woulds "settle" for Moses Abraham. Wishful thinking.
OTBR: What are your top one or two cringe-worthy Bobby Gonzalez moments this season? Or, why should everyone stop hating on Gonzo?
GB: There's been a few. First, he benched senior Eugene Harvey in the opening game of the season, starting Jordan Theodore instead. Mind you, Harvey made 93 consecutive starts prior to his demotion to the bench. It was also Eugene who hit a miraculous 40 foot prayer at the buzzer to narrowly defeat SPC. After putting Harvey back in the starting lineup, the, "standard" starting five, reeled off a 7-0 non-conference record. Against VMI, Bobby altered with the rotation and inserted JT for Stix and the Pirates won, but the use of random starting lineups was soon to follow. The following two games against Temple and Navy, Bobby reverted back to the, "standard" lineup of Harvey, Hazell, Stix, Pope and Garcia, but with Big East play starting and transfers Jeff Robinson and Keon Lawrence vying for minutes, that would all change. For the next 18 games, we never saw the, "standard" lineup again. Sure competition is better in the Big East and adjustments need to be made occasionally to account for injuries and match-ups, but it's still not easy to understand. Keon Lawrence started entirely too many games this season for as poor as he's played offensively. Gonzo's finally put him back on the bench the last two games against RU and MU, which SHU has split 1-1.
The other cringe-worthy Bobby Gonzalez moment was the Hazell benching at the end of the Villanova game. After dropping 32 points, with the Pirates trailing by 12 with 4:00 minutes left, Gonzo lifted Hazell from the game and Jeremy wouldn't return for the remainder of play. Bobby also refused to foul the Wildcats in the last 3 minutes as they nursed a 12 point lead and allowed his offense to use up the majority of the shot clock on each of their OWN possessions. I'm cringing just thinking about that game again. Cringing is a typical reaction during a BG presser and after VU, it was no different. He originally told the press, "You can't just all of a sudden go 1-on-5 and put your head down and looking for the refs to bail you out and complaining on every call and taking bad shots, because then it's not good for the team," as he was clearly unhappy with his player's shot selection. Two days later, in the BIG EAST conference call, Gonzalez told reporters that he wasn't removed for bad shot selection, but instead it was because he didn't get back on defense and didn't join the team in a time out. Was he responding to the criticism of one blog in particular?
OTBR: What do you expect to see in Thursday's rematch? What must SHU do in order to win at the RAC?
GB: I do expect Seton Hall to win another close one as they need the game more than the Scarlet Knights, who I'm HOPING have packed it in for the season. Oh, who am I kidding? This is the season for Rutgers and there's no doubt in my mind they'll be ready and put forth their best effort against their rivals. Who doesn't love playing the role of spoiler? Rutgers can deaden any talk of the Pirates potentially making the NCAA Tournament with a win on Thursday. The atmosphere is going to be electric and I guarantee it will come down to who executes better in the final minutes, again. The Hall must make stops defensively, particularly inside, while winning the turnover battle again. Even if Rutgers out-rebounds the Pirates, which they probably will, I think Seton Hall will out-shoot the Scarlet Knights and when it's all said and done, the Pirates will have swept the season series from our brethren across town.
Best of luck Shawn, thanks for plank walkin' a second time.