Seton Hall has gotten off to a great start this year, compiling a 7-1 record that includes wins over Auburn, St. Josephs, and VCU. A big reason for their success has been the great play of Herb Pope, who is averaging over 21 and 11 for the Pirates.
To educate myself and our fan base, I reached out to Robert of South Orange Juice to throw some questions at him about Seton Hall. He quickly came back with some great answers, and here they are! As always, it was great working with another brother site of BSD on SBNation.
Click through for a Q and A with SOJ!
BSD: Herb Pope has been a monster so far in terms of his stats and overall production this year. What has been the biggest difference from this year, where he is contributing all over the court, as opposed to the past few years, where he has disappeared at times and been a bit of a head case?
SOJ: Simply put, Herb Pope has been the best player in the Big East. The senior leads the league in points and is in second behind Kevin Jones of WVU in rebounding, and has looked as dominant as any big in our conference. The difference is that he's finally healthy. Herb has faced significant adversity, including collapsing after a practice last year and technically dying (thankfully, an assistant coach was there and through life-saving CPR revived the big fella. Now, he's 100% healthy and is the beneficiary of hard fought summer training. He is shooting the three, passing the ball, playing lock-down defense and is a terror on the glass. He's become the complete player and NBA draft pick we always though he could be.
BSD: What can the Deacs expect from the Pirates tomorrow night offensively? It looked like y'all had fairly solid ball movement in the games that I saw, and the open threes were the fruit of your labor.
Head Coach Kevin Willard lives and dies by the three, so the Deacs can expect it to rain three balls tomorrow night. You're right about SHU having improved ball movement this year. Freshman Cosby and Karlis can really pass and have an extremely high basketball IQ, so expect a lot of movement on the perimeter and patience for the open look. Unlike in years past when former SHU guard Jeremy Hazell
would be the only threat, the Pirates have four legitimate options in Cosby, Auda, Edwin and to a lesser degree, Theodore (and remember, Pope and Karlis aren't afraid to hoist it up from deep).
BSD: Against Auburn Coach Dillard threw a high intensity half-court press and it worked wonders in the first half. Would you expect that to continue, and do you expect man to man or a bit of a zone that I saw as well?
SOJ: Perhaps Coach Willard's strength is his defensive mind. He has said, "You can't score on every possession, but you can definitely get after, defensively, on every single possession.". I'd guess that Willard will give different looks of zone and M2M defensive schemes. If Wake Forest has a difficult time converting from long range, look for lock-down zone from the Pirates.
BSD: Aside from Herb Pope who is the biggest X factor for Seton Hall?
SOJ: I can't really call senior point guard Jordan "The General" Theodore the X-Factor, as he is the engine behind the SHU bus, so to speak. I believe JT is at a 3:1 ratio of assists to turnovers, and is an absolute lock-down defender. Look for the confident senior from NJ to try to control the tempo and be the catalyst for said solid passing.
BSD: What are the prospects for the year for the team? It's been a solid start, but with the Big East being strong year in and out, what do you think the ceiling is? NIT? NCAA Tournament?
SOJ: This is a difficult question, as I believe this SHU team looks like (but is better than) the 2006 SHU team who shocked the league and went to the NCAA Tournament. I believe, objectively, SHU boasts the best PF in Pope, a top 5 PG in JT and a top 5 SF in Edwin. The glaring issue is depth. Period. If one of the aforementioned players goes down with an injury, it's curtains on the Pirates' season. So, to answer your question, the way this team has been playing thus far, I'd put them into the NIT or, perhaps best case, on the bubble of the Tourney.
BSD: What ya got for the game tomorrow night in terms of predictions?
SOJ: I have SHU winning a tight one: SHU 70 Wake 66
BSD: Tell us something interesting about Seton Hall, because I'm assuming most of us don't know much (if anything) about your beloved college!
SOJ: Seton Hall is a small private Catholic University located in the quaint town of South Orange, NJ (which is a short train ride away from NYC, only 14 miles as the crow flies). The community at SHU is tremendous. We bleed blue, and for a small university (when you contrast it to the gargantuan Rutgers machine just south) has a tremendously passionate and involved fan base.
It's been nothing short of a pleasure speaking with you guys. We wish you nothing but success (after the game, that is!).