#36 Seton Hall: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #36
Conference Rank: #6 Big East Conference
2009-10: 19-13, 9-9
2009-10 postseason: NIT
Coach: Kevin Willard (First year at Seton Hall, 45-49 overall)
Through four years former coach Bobby Gonzalez failed to reach the high expectations of Seton Hall. Not only did the Pirates not finish better than 10th in the league during Coach Gonzalez’s tenure, but the team only reached the postseason once and that was an NIT bid last season. That leaves new Coach Kevin Willard, a disciple of Rick Pitino, with some high expectations, but also a very talented team.
Key Losses: G Eugene Harvey, G Robert Mitchell, C John Garcia
The Pirates needed some depth in the frontcourt out of this class and they got some options with Patrik Auda, Aaron Geramipoor and Anali Okoloji. All three of those guys are at least 6-8 and 200 pounds and that will help bolster a talented, but thin frontcourt. It may be asking too much to expect any of those freshmen to play productively for 20 minutes per game, but as long as one or two of them can come in and eat up some fouls, grab some boards and play a little defense, Seton Hall should be happy. Fuguan Edwin is a talented wing who will battle for playing time, but the key newcomer to the program is Eniel Polynice. The 6-5 senior is eligible to play immediately after graduating from Mississippi. Polynice started 25 games for the Rebels last season and averaged 8.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists. His versatility will be a great asset to this team.
Even with the departure of Eugene Harvey, the backcourt is in good hands led by Jeremy Hazell and Keon Lawrence. Hazell is a superb, and very underappreciated, scorer who averaged 20.4 points per game last season. Hazell will take a lot of shots from everywhere on the floor, but he easily led the team with 3.1 three-pointers per game and 4.8 trips to the charity stripe. Hazell’s ability to score from anywhere on the floor makes him extremely dangerous and he should only be better during his senior campaign. Jordan Theodore started half of Seton Hall’s games last year and averaged an impressive 9.2 points and 3.5 assists. He is not the only player on this team who can handle the ball, but he is ready to step into a full-time starting role as an upperclassman.
Outside of Hazell, it is really the frontcourt that makes this team so dangerous. Jeff Robinson came on strong late last season. That was not a big surprise since Robinson was not eligible to play until the second semester so it took him a little while to adjust to life at Seton Hall. Yet, once he did, Robinson was a superb player and ended up averaging 12.2 points and 5.8 rebounds. At 6-6, Robinson may be a little undersized for a power forward, but he is tough. Herb Pope has some health issues and how much he will play this season remains to be seen. However, last season Pope was the only player on the team to start all 32 contests and averaged 30.0 minutes per game. Pope led the Big East with 10.7 rebounds per game and added 11.5 points per contest. His ability to score in the paint really opened up the offense last season and losing Pope would be a huge blow. That would force Robinson to do even more work in the paint and put a lot of pressure on the newcomers and sophomore Ferrakohn Hall. Even with Pope playing 25 to 30 minutes per game, Hall will likely be the first big man off the bench. After a relatively uneventful freshman campaign, Hall should be ready to take the next step and at least play 20 minutes per contest.
Who to Watch:
The depth in the backcourt is not an issue at all. Keon Lawrence missed some time last season due to a suspension, but ended up starting 13 games. Lawrence is not much of a scorer, but he is a speedy guard who can create plays for his teammates. Even if Lawrence does not turn into a scorer, he is a great backup point guard and fine defender. Jamel Jackson is the shooter off of the bench. Nearly all of Jackson’s shots last year come from long range, but he connected on 35.8 percent of his attempts and can provide a nice spark.
Coach Willard could not have stepped into a better situation. Certainly he will be scrutinized at Seton Hall, but he has the personality to win over what is really a tough crowd who expects a lot out of a program that can be very difficult to win at. Fortunately, this is a team that has all the talent it needs to reach the NCAA Tournament. It did last year too, but the Pirates slipped down the stretch. If that happens again, Coach Willard will start feeling the heat after just one season in South Orange, New Jersey.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Jordan Theodore, Junior, Guard, 9.2 ppg
Jeremy Hazell, Senior, Guard, 20.4 ppg
Eniel Polynice, Senior, Guard, DNP last season
Jeff Robinson, Senior, Forward, 12.2 ppg
Herb Pope, Junior, Forward, 11.5 ppg
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