SCOUTING THE PIRATES
Seton Hall is experienced in overall years of play, but not within its current system or new coach, Kevin Willard. The Pirates, hitting a hot streak of late with wins over Providence and at Syracuse, still are not shooting well and rely mainly on putback points – a difficult objective for a team lacking height and a pair of above-average rebounders. The new staff has a senior-based team, but one that is still trying to mesh as, arguably, West Virginia has done in the past couple games. The best of the bunch is shooting guard Jeremy Hazell (6-5, 188 lbs.). The senior is averaging more than 19 points per game, among tops in the Big East, and is hitting 42.5 percent from the field. Hazell likes to drive off the dribble and is excellent at the lost art of the midrange jumper. He won’t force his shot, but is able to create and score and is very good from the line at 83.7 percent. The Harlem native isn’t a distributor and he won’t rebound much; this is a scorer first and foremost who can hit outside. Help defense is key, but the Mountaineers might be able to challenge him, despite length, on the offensive side. Hazell doesn’t make many steals and isn’t a good shot blocker.
The forwards are gifted, but not sizeable. Senior Jeff Robinson (6-6, 230 lbs.) is scoring 13 points per game with 6.6 average rebounds. Robinson plays more than 31 minutes per contest, second only to Hazell. That’s partially because SHU lost its one quality reserve, but also because the upperclassman is adept at making shots from all over and getting to offensive boards. Robinson’s rebounding is second overall only to Herb Pope (6-8, 236 lbs.), and Robinson has a bit more of an array of scoring abilities. Pope is buolt much thicker and utilizes his heft and strength to control smaller players and move ones of equal or lesser size where he needs. Pope, a junior from the Pittsburgh area, is nearing a double-double at 10.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Pope likes to get to the rim, and has an effective jumper only from about 12 feet in – though his range has gotten much better. He has made six of 26 threes, and the staff doesn’t always cringe when he takes one now. Pope, though, has always been a bit of a lazy player, and one who would take a possession or two off when he deemed it adequate. His abilities make up for that sometimes, but he doesn’t always hustle back on defense or in transition.
Perhaps the most underrated Pirate is Jordan Theodore (6-0, 174 lbs.). The point guard is scoring a dozen points per game on 42 percent shooting. He has made 34.5 percent from three and is nearing a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio with 99 assists on the year. Theodore isn’t incredibly explosive, but likes to get into the lane and has managed to shoot the second-most free throws on the team this year, making 59 of 74 (79.7 percent). He isn’t as continually tenacious on defense as WVU’s Joe Mazzulla, but has registered 29 steals – tied for the most for the Hall. Swingman Fuquan Edwin (6-6, 205 lbs.), out of Paterson Catholic in New Jersey, is the lone freshman or sophomore providing even decent minutes for the Pirates. Edwin, 8.7 points, 3.5 rebounds per game, plays 25 minutes and has transitioned well to the collegiate game. He has made 42 percent from the field, 30 from three, and like Theodore has 29 steals. His game is solid all over but not great anywhere. West Virginia should be able to have offensive success against Edwin, whose contributions are mainly on offense. Still, Willard gets more than half a game out of a newcomer, a great sign for the future for the local talent.
|Wed. Feb. 2
7:00 p.m. EST
WVU 14-6, 5-3
SHU 10-12, 4-6
Big East Network
WVU - 13
SHU - 90
Seton Hall has three quality backup guards – all upperlassmen. Sixth-man Keon Lawrence (6-2, 177 lbs.) plays more than 24 minutes per game and averages five points, three assists and three rebounds. He is won’t hit from outside (24.1 percent from three), but will try to get others involve and attack the bucket when open. He is solid in the open floor and plays decent defense. This is a good reserve guard with experience, one that won’t make the game-winner, but won’t make many mistakes, either. Fellow backcourt reserves Eniel Polynice (6-5, 220 lbs.) and Jamel Jackson (6-3, 202 lbs.) each play about 15 minutes. Polynice has a bigger body and leans much more toward playing interior basketball. Jackson is a more gifted shooter and has shot just four free throws all year. Foul trouble for the starting guards might mean a dropoff in ability, but it won’t in available numbers for the Pirates. The interior is another story. Forward Ferrakohn Hall transferred to Memphis in early January. Originally from Memphis, Hall averaged five points and 3.4 rebounds in 10 games for SHU this season. His absence leaves Seton Hall without a proven interior reserve, and has left the staff scrambling to fill in with a host of bodies. It has also upped the minutes of the starters, a trend expected to continue in Morgantown.
Seton Hall is a sort of mirror image of the Mountaineers. It doesn’t have great height, but does run the floor when it can and opportunistically scores. It has yet to consistently make solid shots, but its second chance points are a killer. And it is beginning, under a first-year staff, to play some defense and not mentally check out for extended stretches as it has in the past. This is a sharper, more focused team which is, frankly, still developing. It has yet to learn (as arguably WVU just did within its past two games) to play together, and indeed doesn’t have the raw talent of the Villanova’s and Pitt’s. Jeremy Hazell is a very good Big East player, and Herb Pope has the capacity to score inside and play physically with foes if he doesn’t become lazy in the midst of games. Watch to see if Hazell is playing within himself and Pope is hustling down the floor on both ends. If that’s the case and West Virginia isn’t hitting shots and is turning the ball over, the Mountaineers could have problems. As it is, Kevin Jones has a more thorough, stronger drive and engine than Pope (Huggins demands it), and West Virginia should have enough skill and scoring ability at home to win. Rebounding could be a battle, but facets like shooting from the field, three-point range and line and rugged defense belong to WVU. Don’t turn the ball over or get in foul trouble and this one should be another needed win.
WVU: F Kevin Noreen (Knee), Out for Season; G Casey Mitchell (Suspended), Out.
SHU: F Patrick Auda (Foot), Doubtful.
West Virginia has won 491 all-time games in February. It is 14-10 on Groundhog Day.
* * *
The Mountaineers have won 38 of their last 39 when holding foes under 70 points (Louisville).
* * *
Kevin Jones needs three points to become West Virginia’s 47th 1,000-point scorer. He has been within range of the mark for a pair of games now, but scored just eight points per game – five below his season average – over the last two outings.
* * *
Cam Throughman is expected to make his fifth career start against Seton Hall. John Flowers leads the Big East in blocked shots and West Virginia in plus-minis scoring margin when on the floor at plus-191. Joe Mazzulla is averaging 17 points over the last two games.
* * *
The Mountaineers have won six consecutive series games versus Seton Hall, and five in a row in Morgantown. It took overtime for WVU to prevail in Newark (90-84) last season. It won 75-63 in Morgantown. Seton Hall’s last win in Morgantown came on March 1, 2003.
* * *
First-year SHU head coach Kevin Willard has never faced West Virginia or Bob Huggins. Huggins is 4-0 all-time versus Seton Hall, all four games being played while Huggins was at WVU.
* * *
Seton Hall is 4-6 in the Big East but has won two consecutive games. The Pirates are 3-4 on the road this season.