Saturday, November 19, 2011

Wildcats Get Another Chance to Add to Resume Early vs Seton Hall

It’ll be Northwestern versus Seton Hall for the Charleston Classic Title on Sunday night, but what’s potentially more important for both squads is the fact this is a game between two teams which might be on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament in March. Like Northwestern this Seton Hall team is trying to move up from the lower-tier of their conference into a position where they could potentially crack the NCAA Tournament. Last year Seton Hall picked up four wins over NCAA Tournament teams, but like NU their overall performance was not enough to make the Big Dance. This year’s version of Seton Hall is improved and they’ve started the year 3-0 just like Northwestern. So far the Seton Hall schedule looks like this:

St. Francis (NY)…W 75-71 in overtime
VCU………W 69-54
St. Joseph’s…..W 78-70

While Seton Hall doesn’t have any blowout wins like Northwestern has with the 60-36 victory over UTPA, one can certainly classify the Seton Hall performance thus far as very solid. The player who has led Seton Hall to those solid wins is 6-8 forward Herb Pope. Pope was once one of the nation’s top recruits but is now more famous for an odyssey of a career which includes getting shot at a party, being arrested for driving under the influence, and punching a Texas Tech player below the belt twice in an NIT game. All those negatives aside, though, Pope can still play basketball as well anyone. Like NU’s John Shurna he declared for the NBA draft but can back to school. It’s paying off as he’s started the season posting dominating stats which include averages of 19.3ppg and 12.3rpg. Some will point to a Pope-Shurna matchup at Power Forward, but they are very different players. Pope’s an inside scorer who wants to make post moves to score or get fouled (he’s an excellent free throw shooter) whereas Shurna has the outside shot and the ability to attack the hoop going at a defender. If Seton Hall tries to have Pope guard Shurna look for Shurna to take the ball at Pope in an effort to get him to commit fouls. If NU plays man-to-man I’d rather see Drew Crawford on Pope than Shurna, but really as I’ll mention below, this game is more of a 1-3-1 from the start type of matchup.

Pope’s not the only Seton Hall player who qualifies as more of a scorer than shooter. The leading Seton Hall scorer is guard Jordan Theodore who scores 21ppg. However, he’s made just one three pointer in three games. The only real serious shooter threat from Seton Hall is 6-6 forward Fuquan Edwin (50% 3PT). Combined with the fact that aside from Pope Seton Hall hasn’t shown great ability to hit the glass and the fact Theodore averages four turnovers a game it might be a good idea for NU to use the 1-3-1 zone even more often than they have in the first two games of the Charleston Classic. In fact, the numbers would make you believe that you couldn’t blame Bill Carmody if he wanted to start in the zone. If he does start man-to-man look for Reggie Hearn to get Theodore and Alex Marcotullio to potentially play some point guard as Theodore will be a tough guard for Dave Sobolewski.

Personally, I’m expecting to see NU play 1-3-1 for most of the game and it’ll be a test to see how well the extra day between games has been used by Seton Hall Head Coach Kevin Willard to prep has team for NU’s unique offense and defense. This game should be close, but I’m optimistic that NU will get some production from Luka Mirkovic, who will be the biggest player on the court, and that will push the ‘Cats over the top. I predict: Northwestern, 67 Seton Hall, 65

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