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College Basketball Preview: Seton Hall vs. Louisville

Seton Hall Pirates @ Louisville Cardinals
KFC Yum! Center – Louisville, KY
Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011
Time: 7:02 pm EST
TV – ESPNU Mark Brown, play-by-play; LaPhonso Ellis, analyst
Radio – WKRD (790 AM, 101.7 FM) (joined in progess on WHAS, 840 AM) Paul Rogers, play-by-play; Bob Valvano, analyst. (also SIRIUS ch. 152)
Series History: UofL leads 8-5 (5-1 in Louisville, 3-4 in New Jersey)
Officials: Ed Corbett, Bob Donato, Karl Hess

Louisville will open BIG EAST play Wednesday night, becoming the last BIG EAST team to play a league game this season. Their opponents, the Pirates of Seton Hall have already played two, defeating South Florida at home and losing at unbeaten Cincinnati on New Year’s Eve.

The biggest key to this game is Seton Hall senior guard Jeremy Hazell. Hazell is a lights out scorer and has averaged 18.8 points a game in his collegiate career. Unfortunately for the Pirates, the key to the game is that Seton Hall is without Hazell, a preseason All-Big East selection and honorable mention All-America, who broke the scaphoid bone in his left wrist in a win over Alabama on Nov. 19 in the Pirates third game of the year. He underwent successful surgery and is awaiting a January 10th examination that will determine whether he could return to action this season.

In another disturbing event, Hazell was shot four times on Christmas night in his hometown of Harlem by a mugger. It is unknown whether Hazell’s injuries from the shooting will further dampen his chances of returning this season, but Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard has said only “there’s a pretty good chance that Jeremy won’t come back.” Luckily for him, if he decides against going pro, Hazell saw action in only three games, so in the eyes of the NCAA he’s a candidate for a medical redshirt, which would grant him an extra year of eligibility and a chance to play out his senior year as a Pirate.

Without their best player of the past three years, Seton Hall has understandably struggled. The Pirates woes haven’t just come in scoring on offense, but also in defending the hoop. Bobby Gonzalez was fired after last year’s first round loss in the NIT and first year head man Kevin Willard has installed an offense that allows players to bomb away from three-point range whenever they are open. That would be a perfect fit for a gunner like Hazell, but with him out, no one has really stepped up and done a good job of hitting those open shots.

Seton Hall entered 2011 as the worst-shooting team in the BIG EAST. The Pirates are shooting a measly 41.3% through 14 games, and just 32.7% from three-point range. And when you take away Jeremy Hazell’s blazing start to the season (11-for-17 from beyond the arc prior to his injury) and Seton Hall is shooting 30.5% from swashtown.

One of the players that needs to step up is senior transfer from Missouri, Keon Lawrence. Lawrence has scored in double digits just twice this year (in both of the Pirates last two contests) and is averaging just 4.4 points per game at Seton Hall (compared to 9.7 and 11.0 in his first two years at Missouri). He did however lead the Pirates with a career-high 15 points in the loss at Cincinnati.

In Hazell’s abscence, senior guard/forward Jeff Robinson (12.1) and junior guard Jordan Theodore (12.0 ppg) are the Pirates’ top scorers. Junior forward Herb Pope averages 8.6 points and a team-high 8.4 rebounds, good for fifth-best in the BIG EAST, and could have a field day underneath with the Cardinals still without Rakeem Buckles. Pope entered the season as the BIG EAST conference’s active leader in double-doubles.

Also stepping up as of late has been 6′ 6″ freshman Fuquan Edwin. The guard/forward has scored in double figures now in seven consecutive games for Seton Hall and has raised his season average to 9.3 points per contest. Edwin also became the first Pirate since Hazell in 2008 to earn BIG EAST Rookie of the Week honors, doing so for the week of Dec. 20 when he averaged 15.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.0 steals vs. Longwood and NJIT.

Seton Hall is going to have trouble defending the perimeter against Louisville, and they don’t have the size Kentucky does to alter or affect the Cardinals jumpers. The Cardinals should be able to hit enough of thier shots to counter their lack of an inside prescence and win this one comfortably. Also, just in case anyone who reads this doesn’t know, or remember, Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard was an assistant at Louisville under Pitino for six years (2001-07) and his father Ralph is the current Cardinals’ Director of Basketball Operations. Pitino owns his former assistants and will continue that domination.

Louisville 86, Seton Hall 69


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