Monday, October 19, 2009

Preview 2009-10 -- Seton Hall Pirates

Too Busy for the Details?
A veteran center and point guard? Check (ok, the center has tender knees).
A hungry gunner at the off guard? Check.
An aggressive scorer & rebounder at #4? Check
An active and quick #3? Check
Depth at most positions? Check!
For the 1st time since taking the reins at the South Orange school Head Coach Bobby Gonzalez has a team with just about everything he feels he needs to put together a great season. In addition to depth at the guard position (something he has had nearly every season to date), the 4th year coach has a Big East-level front court...with depth too. An injury to any of his starters would be devastating, but the Pirate bench is good enough to cover minutes during a game. Why doesn't every analyst have Seton Hall in the top 4? Most likely because no one is sure how well this collection of players will function as a team. Making the jump from perennial 4th quartile scrapper to 1st quartile power house is very tough, especially in one season. But the Pirates are knocking on the door, having logged back-to-back 17-15 seasons, they are stocked and ready to move up. But how far? Prognosis -- A 3rd quartile finish.

3 Years At a Glance
Coach Gonzalez brings back most of the squad that finished at 17-15 2 seasons running, but more importantly held steady at 7-11 in a much tougher conference last season. And to that veteran squad the coach will add a talent upgrade at two or so positions.


Seton Hall's improvement last season was on the defensive side of the ball. Their dramatic improvement on conference shot defense more than negated their modest slide in defensive rebounding and keeping their opponents off the free throw line.

According to Pomeroy...
Overall ORtg110.551110.263109.380
Overall DRtg98.2116101.015497.6106
Big East ORtg103.110103.31098.410
Big East DRtg107.712109.015106.715
Four Factors -- Overall
All Off. eFG%48.817748.024546.8274
All Off. TOv%17.21816.81216.58
All Off. OReb%31.920933.514031.8228
All Off. FTA/FGA33.424736.716533.2249
All Def. eFG%47.710451.122551.7240
All Def. TOv%20.813521.116023.741
All Def. OReb%40.233837.832536.4296
All Def. FTA/FGA44.330839.322445.4301
Four Factors -- Big East
BE Off. eFG%48.71148.01145.813
BE Off. TOv%16.2317.0316.11
BE Off. OReb%29.51530.81428.215
BE Off. FTA/FGA31.2838.4530.015
BE Def. eFG%48.0451.61453.115
BE Def. TOv%19.9620.2621.23
BE Def. OReb%43.51638.81536.415
BE Def. FTA/FGA43.51641.11345.815
All Gms Cons21.020917.45723.6277
All Gms Luck-.035241+.02783-.108329

Seton Hall's defense has been at or very near the bottom of the Big East 3 years running. The problem is clear (refer to chart above) -- the Pirates do not get enough of the defensive rebounds (the DI average is 32.9; the Big East average is 34.5 -- it's a tough conference for rebounders) and foul too often (the DI average is 36.8; the Big East average is 33.6). Both suggest a scrambling, undersized defense that can get in front of the shooter (the Hall's defensive eFG%, 48.0, is good), but either foul, or if the shot misses, allow the opponent to grab the loose ball (and try again). Physical defense that disrupts without fouling (and get rebounds...) would move the Pirates up in the standings. Converting FGAs more efficiently will definitely power a upward move in the Big East standings. The lack of offfensive rebounding, like their defensive rebounding, suggests an undersized squad that has been unsuccessful at converting misses into second chance opportunities. A bigger and more athletic front line could help quite a bit.

For the Record...
Big East7110.3897110.3894120.250
Post Season?BET/Rnd 1BET/Rnd 1No

As Coach Gonzalaz observed in an interview given over the summer, after a rough sub .500 start (13-16), the Hall climbed to 17-15 and has been "stuck" there for several years. Stalling a 7-11 in Big East play could be the key for SHU. Get to the .500 point in the conference (9-9), and the Pirates could into the Big East Tournament with a chance to get 20 wins.

The Pirate's Nucleus
Coach Bobby Gonzalez brings back all of his significant 2009 team members except Master Thief, 5-11 Paul Gause. The core of the Pirate squad is experienced and pretty good, but they have been too short and too few. This season could be different.

On Offense

On Defense
Jeremy Hazell89.77.85.512.10.12.8
Eugene Harvey83.96.927.521.10.32.5
Robert Mitchell83.716.
John Garcia62.016.56.318.96.10.9
Jordan Theodore55.45.415.924.10.12.4

Garcia and Stix are good, but not great defensive rebounders. Mitchell may be more valuable as a #3, but has been asked to cover power forwards, usually giving them 20 pounds and an inch or two on the inside. The Pirates could benefit with from more rebounding, and it will not, judging from Hazell, Harvey and Theordore, come from the back court. The tallest player on the squad has the lowest block rate. While Garcia, a 5th year senior is scarred from multiple injuries and surgeries, it should nevertheless speak volumes on what is not happening on defense.

Significant Additions
Coach Gonzalez will have two things he has never had in South Orange -- a physical #4 in New Mexico State transfer Herb Pope, and (experienced...) depth, not only for his front court, but his back court as well. In the front court Memphis transfer Jeff Robinson, a well regarded #3/#4 who played HS ball at St. Patrick's in Elizabeth, NJ, red shirt freshman Melvyn Oliver, a 6-11, 340 lb (Coach Gonzalaz believes Oliver may be lighter, after working out in California this summer) back up #5 and true freshman Ferrakohn Hall, a 6-7 #3. The 2009 rotation included 3 walk on players, not a good prospect for winning late in the game. Missouri transfer Keon Lawrence will join senior Eugene Harvey, junior All Big East Third Team Jeremy Hazell and sophomore Jordan Theodore in the Pirate back court.

Explode If...
1. John Garcia can stay healthy and active for his last season. Garcia is a good offensive rebounder, and an above average defensive rebounder. The Hall will need 2 (or preferably more) good rebounders for the defensive boards (Herb Pope fits the bill at both ends of the floor), but Garcia would be starting point.
2. Herb Pope will become more efficient offensively. Pope took a lot of possessions (and shots) for New Mexico. Passable (for a 1st semester freshman) accuracy from inside the arc was sabotaged by abysmal shooting from beyond the arc, and unusually high turnover rate. He needs to become more accurate with his shot and careful with the ball.
3. The back court can work together. Coach Gonzalez has 3 players (2 at the point) who are used to starting and (for 2 of them anyway) carrying the offense. There are enough minutes to distribute. But only one basketball.

Implode If...
1. See #3 above. A lineup of Lawrence, Hazell, Mitchell, Pope and Garcia would have, if each player's last full season is a guide, taken 114% of the possessions and 118.3% of the shots. See the problem? If those 5 start, the percentage of possessions and shots will equal 100%, and that 100% will be distributed somehow among the 5. Will it be the "most efficient" distribution? The "most proficient" scoring distribution?
2. In assembling this squad Coach Gonzalez has decided to rely on JUCOs and DI transfers, ex-pat Northeasterners who left the region for college and have had second thoughts. It is a high-risk, high-reward strategy, because in several cases their clothes and dorm furniture are not the only baggage they bring to Seton Hall. Getting his collection of players to subordinate their individual agendas for the team may be more difficult than he anticipated. That Pope, Lawrence and Robinson have managed to avoid trouble and get to class so far is a good sign.
3. While not the "coach most likely to draw a technical" in the Big East last season, Coach Gonzalez has a volatile personality and has been known to lose his temper, sometimes in public and at occasionally inconvenient times.

Crucial Run/Bellweather Games
An out of conference schedule so light that it leaves Pirate fans grumbling, Seton Hall will play in no invitational tournaments and draw opponents largely out of mid-low major conferences in the Northeast and Middle Atlantic regions. The Hall will play teams out of the American East (1), the A10 (2 -- Temple and UMass), the Big South (1), the MAAC (1), the Ivy (1), the NEC (2), Patriot (1) to go with an independent (NJIT). The marquee game, against Virginia Tech of the ACC, will be played on a neutral court. With post season aspirations, the Hall will practically have run the table in the November to January schedule. Of the opponents, VaTech should be the most challenging, hardly an automatic win.

In the conference look for the Hall to make a statement early. They host West Virginia and Syracuse to open the season. Splitting those games (or taking both...) would show the squad is ready to make a move. Syracuse in particular will be inexperienced, so taking them on the road early would bolster Pirate confidence. Seton Hall faces Virginia Tech in Mexico to ring in the New Year, and stays on the road to take on Connecticut before returning home to face the Cincinnati Bearcats. Cincinnati will also challenge to move into the conference's upper division, so the 1/9/10) face off could well factor into a tie breaker later in the season. Going 3-2 through this stretch (2-2 in conference) would put the Pirates on track for a #8 - #10 place finish (should they hold up through the end of the season). The six games that follow kick off with a quick run down to Washington to face Georgetown (1/14/10), followed by a two game homestand (Louisville 1/21/10; Pitt 1/24/10) and capped by an especially difficult three game road run (USF 1/29/10; Villanova 2/2/10; Pitt 2/6/10). A 3-3 record would confirm the Pirates are ready to move up, as they should sweep their last four home games, and take two of their last four road games.

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