SCOUTING THE PIRATES
The Pirates have been something of a surprise to date, with seniors Herb Pope and Jordan Theodore leading a very inexperienced group of teammates to early season success. Pope is averaging a double-double, with 19.0 points and 11.4 rebounds per game, and has displayed a newfound maturity to his game. He no longer jacks up threes or takes wild shots. Instead, he's playing within the offense and not forcing matters on offense, and as a result has been much more efficient. He's also been a force defensively, with 18 blocked shots and 16 steals to his credit.
Along the front line, he's supported by a pair of sophomores -- 6-9 Patrick Auda and 6-6 Fuquan Edwin, both of whom contribute heavily to the Pirates' inside production. Edwin scores 13.2 ppg and adds six boards per contest, while Auda is just short of double-figure scoring with 9.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. All three forwards are excellent three-point shooters, combining to make 38% of their attempts from beyond the arc.
Aaron Geramipoor has provided most of the sub minutes off the bench, although he is seeing just over eight of those per game. He's mostly there to eat minutes, as he has made just four shots this year. Freshman Brandon Mobely, recently returned from injury that caused him to miss the first nine games of the season, could be primed for more time during the Big East season. He's averaged 4.3 ppg and 2.5 rpg in limited action.
In the backcourt, Theodore is the main story. He averages 15.6 ppg while running the offense and dealing out almost seven assists per contest -- a combination that makes him very difficult to defend. Combined with Pope, Theodore gives the Pirates a 1-2 inside out combination that has surprised most foes. Freshman Aaron Cosby is the fifth starter, and despite his youth has performed well. He averages 7.7 points per contest and has the fewest turnovers (17) of any starter.
Another freshman, Haralds Karlis, has also provided quality time. He is getting more than 22 minutes per game, and has responded with nearly four points and 2.4 rebounds per contest. He has struggled with his shooting, but isn't afraid to fire away when the chance is there, as he fills time for either of the starters on the perimeter. Point Freddie Wilson provides a bit of rest time running the team, tallying approximately eight minutes per appearance.
Two very different forwards, SHU's Pope and WVU's Kevin Jones, will battle in the marquee match-up of the contest.
Both are inside-oriented players who work hard on the glass and can shoot the three, and both have been the clear leaders of their squads to date. The interesting thing to watch in this confrontation, though, might be defense oriented. Will WVU put Jones on Pope, or will it try Keaton Miles in an attempt to keep Jones out of foul trouble? Deniz Kilicli could draw Auda, but might also get a start on Pope. The problems with the Kilicli match-up are a) He's hobbled with a nerve problem in his side, and b) all three of SHU's front court starters are three-point threats.
WVU 10-3, 1-0
SH 7-6, 0-1
WVU - 30
SH - 7
On the other end, Kilicli presents just as many poblems, however. The Pirates don't have anyone who can stand up to Kilicli strength-wise, thus they will have to double donw on him if he gets the ball in the post and try to force him to give it up before he can bull his way to the basket. As Bob Huggins has noted more than once, mismatches are often best judged in the overall -- is a player with an advantage on one end scoring more points than he's giving up on the other? That figures to be a focal point in this late Friday-night event.
West Virginia's physical status might also be a key factor in the contest. The Mountaineer roster looks more like that of a football team at the end of the regular season, rather than that of a team just embarking on its conference slate. Pat Forsythe continues to be sidelined with back spasms, and there is no projected date for his return. Deniz Kilicli proclaimed himself at "about 60%" following the Villanova win, and the problem, which he termed a nerve issue rather than the reported hip pointer, is also one that defies a projected return to normalcy. Add in issues such as Kevin Jones' deep eyebrow cut and the wrapped left wrist of Aaron Brown, and WVU is more than a bit bruised up. Will it be able to play with the sustained effort required to get a win on the road? Keep an eye on WVU's ability to get up and down the court, and especially its defensive intensity -- those factors may weigh heavily in the outcome.
Both teams have featured the same respective starting five players in every game this season.
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Seton Hall was one of the pioneers in mining overseas talent for its hoops squad, and this year is no different. The Pirates freature players from Lativa (Karlis), the Czech Republic (Auda), and England (Aaron Geramipoor). All three players came to Seton Hall via the Canarias Basketball Academy in the Canary Islands.
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WVU has won its first three Big East games of the season just once under Bob Huggins (2009-10). That year, the Mountaineers started off with three straight wins enroute to a 13-5 league mark. With games against Seton Hall and Rutgers up next, there's a least a decent chance that West Virginia could match that start.
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Seton Hall University is named after the aunt of the founder of the school, James R. Bailey. Mother Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, holds the distinction of being the first American-born Catholic saint, and also is one of the few people to have two universities named in their honor. Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pa., also memorializes her name.