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BET Round 1: #10 Seton Hall Pirates (18-11, 9-9) v. #15 Providence Friars (12-18, 4-14) 7:00PM Open Game Thread

#10 Seton Hall v. #15 Providence, 7:00PM
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Television: ESPNU
Radio: 770 WABC 

Online: Pirates v. Friars Coverage, Twitter @GonzoBall @thecycle

Projected Starting Five: G-Harvey, G-Theodore, G-Hazell, F-Robinson, F/C-Pop

Here we are.  The BET is underway and the Seton Hall Pirates have an opportunity to play their way into the big dance. Yes, every team has the opportunity to play their way into the NCAA Tournament by winning their conference tourney, but unlike year's past, the Pirates will likely earn a berth with just a couple victories at the garden.  For the record, I'm in the camp that believes SHU will be in with just two victories against PC and ND.

After just defeating the Friars by 12 points in Providence on Saturday, will the Pirates suffer from a sense of overconfidence?  Will the team and specifically, the head coach be distracted by the NYT onslaught yesterday? A lot of questions will be answered in just a couple hours. Ultimately, time will tell, but I'm banking on the team rallying behind Bobby Gonzalez not only tonight, but throughout the course of the tournament.  His team knows what they need to do to silence the critics.  Likewise, the SHU faithful understands what needs to be done in this year's conference tournament and they can contribute in making it happen.  South Orange is just miles away from NYC and the greatest arena on earth, utilize the home court advantage, it's there for the taking.  Pack it out.  Get loud.  As far as the team? Beat Providence. One game at a time, one game.  

SHU Athletics preview:

Overall, 18 wins is a high for Seton Hall under Bobby Gonzalez. The Pirates earned the #10 seed in the 2010 BIG EAST Championship. For the season, Jeremy Hazell leads Seton Hall and ranks third in the conference with 21.2 points per game. Herb Pope became the first Pirate to finish a season leading the BIG EAST in rebounds per game (11.1).

PC preview:

The Friars (12-18) and the Pirates (18-11) just faced each other in the final game of the regular season with Seton Hall earning a 92-80 win at Providence on March 6. The Friars have posted a 45-41 mark all-time versus the Pirates, including a 2-3 record in BIG EAST Tournament action. The last time the two teams met in the BIG EAST Championship, Seton Hall defeated the Friars, 85-65, on March 8, 2000. PC's last win over Seton Hall in the BIG EAST Championship was a 77-75 victory on March 6, 1985.

SBNation preview:

Jeff Robinson puts forth 11.7 ppg for SHU, while Herb Pope produces 11.2 ppg. Pope is also the top rebounder in the Big East, ripping down 11.1 rpg.

SHU is running well right now and Hazell should have himself a big night in leading the Pirates past Providence for the second time in just a few days.

Tonight is the biggest Seton Hall basketball game in the last four years, writes Paul Tyahla:

Today, thanks to two road wins, a weak national bubble and a favorable Big East Tournament draw, Pirate Nation will watch their team take the floor at Madison Square Garden with the chance to play themselves into the NCAAs. It is the most important Seton Hall basketball game in the last four seasons.

Brendan Prunty has the Pirates as, 'Last Four Out,' but their play in the BET will determine where they stand on Sunday:

The Pirates dodged two major bullets Monday night when Siena and Old Dominion both pulled out their respective conference championships. Had either one - or worst case, both - lost, it would have made Seton Hall's margin for error that much slimmer. We don't think the Gonzaga loss to St. Mary's hurts their chances at all because we thought the Gaels were going to make the field. But a Butler loss to Wright State would be a big blow to their at-large chances. 

John Garcia nearly lost his life at the age of three when he was struck by a van, after surviving, he has learned to overcome various obstacles in his life, including persistent injuries that have slowed his career.  He hopes to see the NCAA Tournament once more before his collegiate career comes to an end.  Courtesy of Prunty

His parents, who are separated but still a large part of his life, will be there this afternoon just as they were by his bedside at Passaic Hospital. Jhony already knows there will be tears, but unlike on that terrifying morning when he held John in his arms in the hospital's parking lot after the accident, these will be tears of joy.

"I know for a fact that he's here for something," Jhony Garcia said. "God has something reserved for him. If he can beat death when he was 3 years old, I know that there's something for him in his life."

Great work Brendan.  We're pulling for you John. 

Also, in his projected BET final four, Prunty has SHU v. WVU and Marquette v. Syracuse.  

Herb Pope, Bobby Gonzalez and Jeremy Hazell are saying all the right things, as J.P. Pelzman provides recent quotes. From Jeremy Hazell: 

"We can't look ahead," coach Bobby Gonzalez said Saturday after a 12-point win over Providence. "Somebody said [we're] in a decent bracket with Notre Dame and this team and that team. You can't think like that."

"We always focus on the team we're about to play," said Jeremy Hazell, who admitted he is bothered sometimes by a still-healing cut on his right hand. "It's hard to beat any team twice in a couple of days' span. We have to come out and play like we did [Saturday]. We have to be aggressive, make shots and defend and I think we'll be all right."

Jerry Carino predicts the Pirates win their first two contests, while adding:

Why they'll have a great week: The ability is here. The Pirates had West Virginia and Syracuse on the ropes and split with Pitt.

Why they won't: They've had a tough time executing late in close games.

Lastly, Dana O'Neil, reporting from the BET, chooses Herb Pope as her SHU player to watch: 

Herb Pope. Jeremy Hazell is the scoring machine, but Pope is the reason the Pirates have moved up the Big East ladder. Not always a prolific scorer, he's tireless on the boards, where he averages 11 rebounds a game. For a team that likes to go and score as much as Seton Hall, each ball Pope corrals is critical.

See you immediately after the game for post-game thoughts.  As always, Let's Go Hall!