UPDATE (12:43 PM): This game will not be on TV. It will be on ESPN3 exclusively, so if you aren't able to get the video, feel free to tune in to WSOU as yours truly will be calling all the action. 89.5 FM for those in the NY-Metro Area and wsou.net for all others!
Fresh off a grind-it-out win on the road, the Pirates were welcomed back to the Garden State with their first top-25 ranking in 11 years. Now they have the task of defending their home court in a game they should win against Oliver Purnell and the DePaul Blue Demons.
Here's all you need to know about DePaul, and maybe a little more:
2011-12 record: 10-5 (1-2 Big East)
All-time series record: 7-2
Last meeting: 1/12/11 (78-67 SHU W)
Seton Hall and DePaul have only met 9 times in history, and during that time, the Pirates have never lost to the Blue Demons at home.
DePaul is a little like Providence was two seasons ago- a good offensive team (mainly pace-driven), and a terrible defensive team. Last season was pretty darn bad, as they finished 7-24 overall and 1-17 in conference play. The one win was, ironically, at Providence.
In that struggle, however, DePaul had two players- Rookie of the Year Cleveland Melvin and all-Rookie team selection Brandon Young- emerge as legit keepers. Melvin showed himself to be an athletic forward that is tailor-made for Oliver Purnell's system, and he's second in the conference in scoring this season at nearly 19 PTS. Young has really stepped up his game in his sophomore season, ranking 8th in the conference in scoring at a little over 17 PTS and also ranking 5th in the conference in both AST and STL. It's a nice inside-outside combo to build around out at Lincoln Park.
Unfortunately for DePaul, no one is really helping those guys out- Young and Melvin are the only DePaul players in double figures. Now-senior guard Jeremiah Kelly (9.9 PTS) is a capable ball-handler and long-range shooter, and plays plus defense out on the perimeter. Moses Morgan is a shooter for the Blue Demons as well, averaging 8 PTS in his sophomore season. Jamee Crockett and Charles McKinney are very good athletes that can shoot it when given time and space, Krys Faber and Donnavan Kirk (and, to a lesser extent, Derrell Robertson) provide some muscle down low, and Worrel Clahar, a JUCO transfer, has been a nice piece off the bench behind Young and Kelly. The collective effort of those bench guys has lessened the blow of losing Tony Freeland and Montray Clemons for the year with injuries, as well as Shane Larkin and Macari Brooks before they even suited up.
But this is far from a great team, and the issue is their defense. DePaul wants to turn the opposition over and play ultra-fast, track meet basketball. When they are unable to generate turnovers with their pressing, trapping defense, they give up many, many easy baskets. Oliver Purnell's system actually doesn't allow many threes- last season the Blue Demons gave up the least amount of threes in the entire conference. But the issues from last year still abound- the Blue Demons are dead last in the conference in field goal percentage defense and scoring defense because they are still allowing opposing teams to rebound 40% of their own misses and shoot 52% on two-pointers. They have had success forcing turnovers, but their extreme deficiencies in rebounding and straight-up defense sans turnovers negate the fact that they are actually near the top of the conference in scoring and threes made.
Case in point: Against Villanova in their last game, they forced 28 turnovers from the Wildcats, but couldn't convert off of them. Factor in that Nova out-rebounded the Demons by 18 and shot 56% from the field, and you get the 16-point loss that occurred at the Pavilion. The Wildcats only took 10 threes, making 4 of them.
This season, the Blue Demons were able to knock off a sliding Pittsburgh team at home, which represents progress. But this team has a long way to go on its way back to respectability.
Seton Hall will win if:
- They take care of the ball. Plain and simple, if the Pirates don't turn the ball over, DePaul doesn't have much of a shot. DePaul wants to speed you up into knots and into mistakes. Which brings me to my next key...
- They dictate the pace. Seton Hall likes to get out and run, but not play as fast as DePaul would like. Jordan Theodore has done a masterful job of controlling the pace of the game this year, and if he continues this, Seton Hall should be fine. If the game pace is with Seton Hall, the game will be won by the Pirates.
DePaul could win if:
- They push the pace and force turnovers. Pretty self-explanatory. DePaul has the athletes and the depth to be able to press all game, so the Pirates need to be prepared for that.
- Young and Melvin take the lead. Offensively, there are some nice pieces for the Blue Demons, but the only players with the skill level to do damage against the Pirates' tough defense are Young and Melvin. If they score up to their season averages, DePaul has a shot. They can't afford an off game from either of them.