Two close calls over the weekend, one a game the Pirates should have won but didn't, and one they probably shouldn't have won, but did.
The next big road test (technically, the first big road test) is next week against LSU in Baton Rouge, but before that, Seton Hall has two important home games to try and get some of their mojo back.
First up, the University of Maine.
Conference: America East
2011-12 record (in-conference): 12-17 (6-10, 7th place)
Maine was a weird team last season.
They finished second in the America East in scoring, averaging close to 70 points per contest, and placed third in the conference in field goal and free throw percentages. So how did they finish 7th out of 9 teams in the America East? One would think their defense wasn't very good.
But they led the league in field goal percentage defense as well. Huh? What? How can that be?
Well, here's the answer. Inside the paint, the Black Bears were very good defensively. They had the conference's leading shot-blocker in Mike Allison and led the A-East in blocks as a team.
But outside the arc was a different story, as America East opponents shot almost 40% from the great beyond, good for dead last in the league. The Black Bears rebounding was also highly suspect, as they finished 8th in rebounding defense and allowed conference opponents to rebound their own misses almost 40% of the time.
This season, they are without last year's two main point guards (Singleton, Rogers) and their leading scorer and best three-point shooter by far from last season in three-time all-America East guard Gerald McLemore. They still have two of the best frontcourt players in the conference, however, in Allison and Alasdair Fraser (a preseason All-America East pick). Allison is pretty much a defense and rebounding guy who can put the ball in the hole when needed.
Fraser is a very skilled post player who can score, rebound, and block shots. He's currently averaging a double-double through three games (10 PTS, 11 REB) along with nearly 3 BLK as well, albeit against the likes of Brown, Dartmouth and Holy Cross. The Pirates will need to keep an eye on him.
Guard-wise, the Black Bears return a future America East star in Justin Edwards. As a freshman last season, the athletic scoring guard ranked 6th in the conference in scoring and 5th in steals while also grabbing over 5 REB and dishing over 3 AST per game. He was named to the All-conference Rookie team as well for his exploits.
Joining Edwards in the backcourt is Bronx native Xavier Pollard, who's more of a slasher than Edwards. He currently leads the Black Bears in scoring at 10.7 PTS.
Behind the Black Bears' "Core 4," you can find JUCO transfer Jon Mesghna and Zarko Valjarevic, both of them shooters, and newcomer Till Gloger, who's contributing as a backup forward. Aside from those 7, there isn't much to write home about, although a whopping 9 of the 15 players on the roster are from foreign countries.
Seton Hall will win if:
- They defend in the first half. The Pirates have gotten shredded by some hot shooting in the first halves of the last two games. As you may have noticed, Maine is having extreme troubles scoring the ball this season. They are balanced, with 3 players hovering right around the 10 PTS mark, but the shooting percentages of their three high-usage guys- Fraser, Edwards and Pollard- are all on the low side. The Pirates can eliminate some of the slow starts from the last two games by simply bottling up the Black Bears from the get-go.
- They keep Fraser off the board & boards. Maine's offense at the moment runs through Fraser, as it should. The onus will be on the Pirate bigs to know where he is and box him out of the paint. Allison can rebound as well, but Fraser does most of the work. The Scottish forward has been known to be a little foul-prone as well. So one way the Pirates can keep him from being a factor is the same way they attacked Rhode Island- feed the ball to Gene Teague early and often.
- Fuquan Edwin stays on the floor. You can bet the farm that Maine hasn't seen the likes of a defender like Edwin in quite some time. Fu gambles a little from time to time on defense, and honestly, that's a good thing. But over the last two games, it's gotten him into some early foul trouble, and the difference he makes for the Pirates' defense is quite a big one. This could end up remaining a key for the rest of the year as well, but with the two outside scoring threats for Maine standing 6'3" and 6'3", Edwin should have a field day in this game if he remains foul-free.
Maine could win if:
- Fraser and Edwards are factors. Pretty simple, but the only chance Maine has in this one is if their stars play like stars. That, and if.....
- They make threes. Rhode Island knocked down 8-20 from beyond the arc on Sunday, 5-9 in the first half. The Black Bears, aside from Mesghna (5-13) and Valjarevic (3-8), have not made a single three. Edwards is 0-11, and Pollard 0-7 so far. Those are some ugly numbers from two of your top 3 scorers that will need to be reversed if Maine hopes to keep this game close.