The Pirates rode their senior point guard to an overtime victory over St. Francis (NY) in a game they had to earn. Now they ship down to Charleston for the weekend to participate in the Charleston Classic. For their first round opponent, they draw the VCU Rams, last year's Cinderella entry in the Final Four.
Here is everything you need to know about the Pirates' opponent in Game #2 of their season.
2011-12 record: 1-0
All-time series record: first meeting
Last meeting: N/A
VCU made a well-documented run from the First Four to the Final Four last season, riding strong perimeter shooting and solid inside-outside play from multifaceted forward Jamie Skeen.
This year, however, is a little different. This year, VCU, like almost every other team in Charleston, is young and rebuilding. A few holdovers remain from last year's squad, including wing Bradford Burgess (the lone senior on this team), guards Darius Theus and Troy Daniels (both juniors), and big men DJ Haley and Juvonte Reddic in addition to reserve guard Rob Brandenburg (sophomores).
So that gives VCU the luxury of starting 5 players who have some college experience. Their bench has Brandenburg in addition to a lot of youth. VCU is a solid, solid team, but people tend to remember only their run to the Final Four in March, not how VCU was in the second group of the CAA before it started hitting barrages upon barrages of threes. They are not quite world-beaters, so Seton Hall will need to cut through the aura and just play ball.
Like last year, this team still loves to chuck it, attempting 30 threes against St. Francis (PA) in their first game of the season (a game the Rams had to hold on to win). Daniels in particular attempted HALF of those threes, making 5. In fact, the only shots he attempted were threes. So this team can definitely get hot from deep.
The main concern coming into the year was whether the Rams would be able to replace Jamie Skeen's rebounding down low that held the team together in March. Early results say that the pieces are there- Reddic pulled down 8 boards on the offensive end alone of his 10 total boards, and Haley had 5 of his 8 boards come on that side of the ball vs SFPA. Reddic and Haley are 6'9" and 7'0" respectively, so VCU does have a decent amount of size. Long 6'8" frosh Jarrid Guest is a lanky freshman who backs up Reddic and Haley down low.
Seton Hall will win if:
- They rebound and defend the three. Seton Hall allowed St. Francis (NY) WAY too many open looks for their shooters Ben Mockford and Stefan Perunicic. The mindset on defense has to be to press up on the perimeter because you do not want this team to get those open looks very often. Also, the undersized Pirates have to rebound against the big front line of the Rams, something they did not do very well with the size advantage they had Saturday night. That puts the onus not only Herb Pope, Patrik Auda, and Aaron Geramipoor, but also on the Pirate wings to track down the caroms to try to ease the load.
VCU will win if:
- They out-hustle the Pirates. Both VCU and Seton Hall play a similar style in that they spread the floor and look for open threes. Therefore, the difference comes down to defense and heart. You can bet Shaka Smart will have his team ready to play another major conference team and if that translates to hustle, VCU has an excellent chance to win.
This is a real tough test any way you look at it. It's on a neutral floor against a very good opponent with a style that the Pirates could struggle to stop. I have a hunch that following this game (and this tournament as a whole) we will know a little more about the resolve of this young Pirates squad.