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JP's Opening Night Preview: UMKC Kangaroos

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Coach Willard leads the new-look Pirates into a new season in first regular season game at Walsh Gym in 11 years.

Chris Chambers

It's finally here.

Finally, we get to see some real basketball played in South Orange. The Pirates open up their 2012-13 season against the Kangaroos of the University of Missouri at Kansas City, and everyone's psyched for it. Despite the damage done by Hurricane Sandy in the past two weeks that caused the cancellation of both the Pirates' second exhibition contest and the annual Seton Hall Media Day festivities, the Pirates are ready.

The team did schedule another scrimmage against a "local school" that was closed-door, so the team should be prepared to kick things off tonight.

Before we go any further, here's a little info on their opponent, the UMKC Kangaroos:

Missouri-Kansas City

Conference: Summit League

2011-12 record (in-conference): 10-21 (4-14, last place)

Starters returning/lost: 4/1

Key loss: G Reggie Chamberlain

Key returnees: F Trinity Hall, F Kirk Korver, G/F Thomas Staton, G Estan Tyler, G Nate Rogers

As you can see, UMKC was not a very good team last season. That was partly due to injuries, particularly at the Center position. Pirate fans can certainly relate, as Kirk Korver, youngest brother of Kyle Korver and a stretch-4 man, was forced to play out of position because the front line was so hurt all year.

This year, the Roos are healthier, and hope to be more balanced. Gone is last year's leading scorer Reggie Chamberlain, who averaged more than 17 PTS and took nearly 400 shots, almost half of which were from long range (sound familiar?). He also finished as the top three-point shooter and free throw shooter in the history of the school, making a whopping 47% from deep and 87% from the line. The percentages may be a little off, but basically, Chamberlain was the Roos' Jeremy Hazell last season.

Looking to step in and help fill the void are returning forwards Trinity Hall, Korver and Thomas Staton- the lone senior on the squard. Hall is a versatile forward who can do a little bit of everything, and who was the second-leading scorer last season behind Chamberlain. Korver can shoot (with those genes, that's a given) from the forward position, and can stretch to three-point range if left open. Staton was a forward last season due to the injury troubles, but he's moved to guard this season.

The Kangaroos also bring back their starting point guard Estan Tyler and scoring guard Nate Rogers. Tyler is more of a true point guard who started much of his freshman season, but deferred a lot to Chamberlain, so UMKC looks to him to take more of a focal role in the offense. Rogers, a DePaul transfer from a couple seasons ago, can score. He dropped 19 PTS in the Kangaroos' exhibition contest last Friday and had good shooting numbers as well.

UMKC also brought in three JUCO transfers in center Caleb Johnson, wing Nelson Kirksey and forward Alton Tanner. Johnson started the exhibition and showed some ability, including a mid-range jumper. Considering the struggles last season up front, they almost certainly brought him in to play him. Kirksey is the Roos' best perimeter defender, an athletic wing who doesn't necessarily look to score, but can hold his own on that end of the court. Tanner is a lean athlete who can rebound well for his lack of bulk.

As a team last season, UMKC was not very good statistically. Out of 10 teams in the Summit League, the Roos finished 9th in scoring, last in rebounding (out-rebounded by about 6 per game) and field goal percentage, and allowed opponents to shoot nearly 48% from the field.

Seton Hall will win if:

- They focus. This is a game that the Pirates are expected to win, and rightfully so. If they run their offense, make a few threes, and defend like they are capable of defending, the Pirates are simply too good for a re-tooling UMKC team to handle.

- They rebound. The Pirates crushed Wilmington on the boards to a tune of a 46-24 advantage, including a 20-9 edge in offensive rebounding. The Kangaroos? They actually got OUT-REBOUNDED by their NAIA exhibition opponent Ottawa University, including a 20-10 DEFICIT in offensive boards. If the Pirates grab those caroms with regularity and get themselves extra opportunities to score, this one will be easy.

UMKC could win if:

- They hustle. The Kangaroos are going to need to play their tails off to get past the size and skill advantage the Pirates have. Out-hustling a Seton Hall team that is playing on their home floor in front of what should be a very good crowd is the only way they'll have a true shot in this one.


As an aside note, if you can't make it to Walsh Gym tonight or were unable to get a ticket, the Juice has you covered. Our head recruiting analyst Chris (@CerasolisGhost) will be tweeting throughout the game. Also, the game will be broadcast over Pirate Sports Network, the Seton Hall internet TV portal, with a certain recent alum on color commentary......

Hazard Zet Forward!