7. Seton Hall Pirates
2005-06 Record: 18-12 (9-7 Big East)
Last season’s final ranking (NY Metro area poll): 4th
Head Coach: Bobby Gonzalez (1st year @ SHU, 129-77 overall)
Leading Returnees: Points (Jamar Nutter-12.1 ppg); Rebounds (Brian Laing-3.6 rpg); Assists (Nutter-1.7 apg)
Returning Starters: 3 (G Jamar Nutter (Jr. 6’2, 205), F Stan Gaines (Jr. 6’7, 242), C Grant Billmeier (Sr. 6’10, 252)
Key Losses: G Donald Copeland, F/C Kelly Whitney
Bobby Gonzalez takes over the Seton Hall program after an excellent seven-year run at Manhattan. Unfortunately for Gonzalez, mainstays Donald Copeland and Kelly Whitney graduated after last season, meaning that he needs to find replacements for the top tow scorers from last season. And don’t discount the leadership provided by these two, especially Copeland. The Hall surprised many by making the NCAA Tournament last season, yet that wasn’t enough to save Louis Orr’s job. This year, expectations will be even lower, even though some quality returns, and Gonzalez was able to put together a solid freshman class.
Jamar Nutter will look to improve his 12.1 points per game average this season, and with the lack of experience behind him he will have ample opportunities to do so. The athletic Paul Gause, who can make things happen on both ends of the court, may see more minutes, yet in a similar role to the one he had last season. His energy can be used to force tempo, and the year under his belt should aid in his handling of more responsibility. Carl Marshall, who didn’t see the floor much last season, will have to compete with freshmen perimeter players Larry Davis, Eugene Harvey and Kashif Pratt if he wants to see more than the 6.7 minutes per game he received in 2005-06. Harvey has the best shot of the three when it comes to starting with the void left by Copeland’s departure.
Inside, Kelly Whitney was pretty much the only answer when it came to scoring points. Grant Billmeier, who has never been much of a scorer during his career in South Orange, will be expected to supply rebounding and defensive help while avoiding foul trouble. Seton Hall also returns Stan Gaines, a transfer from Minnesota known more for his defense last season. With the lack of depth inside, Gaines will see more playing time at the power forward position. John Garcia, who redshirted due to injury last season, will also be asked to contribute in the paint. Mani Messy, who rarely saw the court in his first three years at Seton Hall, also returns.
Gonzalez was hired not only for his coaching ability but also his recruiting contacts in the New York metropolitan area, a resource that Orr lacked during his tenure. All three true freshman hail from the area, so the new coach’s influence can already be noticed. Seton Hall will have to go with a smaller lineup this year, and that could give them problems in the Big East this year.
Schedule at a Glance
Seton Hall begins the season with a pair of home games, hosting Caldwell College (November 11th) and Fairleigh Dickinson (November 18th) at the Continental Airlines Arena. Their first road game, something that you rarely see with BCS conference schools, is a trip to Morgan State. Seton Hall only has five games away from home, with one being a matchup with former Big East member Virginia Tech in the Aeropostale Classic at Madison Square Garden. They also travel to Provo, Utah to take part in the BYU Holiday Classic to end 2006. In addition to host BYU, the Pirates will play Oral Roberts and Liberty during the three-day event. Seton Hall has one non-league foe mixed into their Big East schedule as well, a home game with Princeton January 29th. Yet the toughest game of the first half of the year may be a home game against Pennsylvania on December 23rd.
Big East play opens with the first meeting of two with in-state rival Rutgers. Expect a lot of media attention in the NYC area for this one, with two first-year head coaches (Fred Hill takes over for Gary Waters at RU) and noted recruiters facing off. The other conference teams that the Pirates will face twice are Providence and West Virginia. Seton Hall will not play DePaul or Syracuse during the regular season. Home games include St. John’s, Georgetown, Villanova and Pittsburgh. The Pirates will hit the road to face the likes of Notre Dame, Marquette, Connecticut and Cincinnati. The season ends with a trip to Louisville March 4th. With the Big East being as tough as it is, any hopes of postseason play (NIT or NCAA) will hinge on how well Seton Hall navigates their non-conference slate. Also, only the top 12 teams qualify for the Big East Championship.
Interesting Note: While Seton Hall was able to win games at the likes of Syracuse, NC State and Pittsburgh last season; they also found ways to lose road games at Rutgers, St. John’s and DePaul.
2005-06 Team Averages
· Points per game: 67.8 - Points per game allowed: 67.1 - Scoring Margin: + 0.7
· Rebounds per game: 36.8 - Opp. Rebounds per game: 34.8 - Rebounding Margin: + 2.0
· Assists per game: 12.4 - Turnovers per game: 13.4 - Assist-to-Turnover Ratio: 0.9:1
· Field Goal Percentage: 40.9% - FG Percentage Defense: 42.2%
· 3-Point Percentage: 33.5% - 3-Point Percentage Def: 33.4%
· Free Throw Percentage: 74.6%
· Longest winning streak: 6 (South Florida, @ NC State, @ Syracuse, @ Providence, Rutgers, @ South Florida) January 20th-February 8th
· Longest losing streak: 3-twice (@ Rutgers, Marquette, @ Villanova) January 7th-17th; (Notre Dame, @ St. John’s, @ DePaul) February 18th-25th
· Seton Hall ended the year on a two-game skid, losing in poor efforts against Rutgers (61-48) and Wichita State (86-66).