What could have been Eniel... (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
You guys might not recognize SBN's Seton Hall blog South Orange Juice in its current form, but you might remember its previous name, Gonzo Ball. We talked to the guys about Eniel Polynice, Jeremy Hazell, and why they changed the name of the site.
1. How is Coach Willard doing in his first year at the Hall? Can you tell us what what he likes to run on offense and defense?
SOJ: Unfortunately for Kevin Willard, his best player and most prolific scorer, Jeremy Hazell, broke his wrist in his third game of the season. For a player that averaged 22.7 and 20.4 points per game n his last two seasons, that's A LOT of production to account for. In addition to Hazell's injury, Herb Pope was not the same player that Willard thought he was inheriting. Of course, much of that can be attributed to his near-death collapse and hospital stay this summer, but for a player that averaged a double-double last season, Pope has just one through 11 games this year.
That said, for what Kevin has had to work with; this will sound cliche, but it's true, we've seen some good and some bad. Early in the season, there was very little consistency among his substitution patterns. To an extent, that's expected from a first year coach dealing with a new roster, but Willard was often bringing players out of the ballgame who were playing well and vice-versa. Possibly the biggest positive surrounding Kevin Willard is that he's a no-nonsense coach and that's an absolute breath of fresh air after four years of Gonzo! Kevin's a disciplinarian and isn't afraid to bench players, whether that means the team will ultimately be hurt in the end. He's benched upperclassman Herb Pope and Keon Lawrence for first-halves for missing curfew, an offense that I'm sure Bobby Gonzalez would have looked the other way or punished with extra wind sprints in practice.
On offense, the Pirates ran two-guard sets that were designed to get the ball into Jeremy Hazell's hands. With Hazell out of the picture, it's been a mess. The Seton Hall bigs, Jeff Robinson and Herb Pope, have convinced their head coach that they're 3-point shooters and to the displeasure of the fan base, he's bought into it. In a press conference he's went as far as saying that any player who plays for him has the freedom to shoot 3-pointers. It's gotten to the point where it hurts the team with wasted possessions on terrible shots, yet there haven't been any consequences thus far. One of the Pirates' most common offensive sets post-Hazell will be a two-guard set with the two-guards and the wing spread around the perimeter. The perimeter players will swing the ball around the arc until they either deliver an entry pass to the 4-or-5, or one of the guards dribble-drives into the lane either before putting up a shot of their own or dishing off to a post player. The results have been mixed; sometimes a shot is created or the guards find the post players for the finish, other times they turn the ball over or force bad shots.
Defensively, Willard will run a little of everything before generally settling into a 2-3 zone, which has been quite effective for the most part. Early on in the ballgame, we'll see a mix of 2-2-1 full court press and possibly some 3/4 court press. In the half-court game, the Pirates will often start halves in man-to-man, but if their opponent has the edge with more athletic bodies, Willard will roll out the "base" 2-3 zone.
2. How is Jeremy Hazell recovering from his broken wrist? Will he play Tuesday? If not, who should we keep an eye on?
Jeremy Hazell will not play Tuesday. After breaking his wrist in the USVI during the Paradise Jam, it was originally decided that he would pass on surgery and let the wrist heal on its own. In a medical decision that's on par with the New York Mets, they changed their minds and surgery was elected, 13 days after the injury occurred. As a result, the 4-6 week timetable to heal the bone was pushed back an additional two weeks and we're currently looking at mid-January for Jeremy's return to the court.
(Editor's note: Hazell was shot in an attempted robbery in New York on Christmas. At this point Hazell may end up redshirting or heading to the pros straight away.)
Look for freshman Fuquan Edwin and senior Jeff Robinson to try to take over this game. Edwin has been impressive as of late in Jeremy's absence, while Robinson has the best shooting percentage on the squad and probably has been the most consistent Pirate, averaging 12 points and six rebounds.
3. We thought Eniel Polynice was coming to Tampa after he left Ole Miss, but decided to play for the Pirates. How has he done this season?
Eniel Polynice was a mystery for much of the early season, playing under 16 minutes in half of the games so far. Failing to score in double figures all season, he finally had his coming out party last Wednesday against Dayton. Polynice showed why he entered his name into the NBA Draft last season (although I find it hard to believe that we'll ever see him in an NBA uniform), tallying a Josh Smith-esque 11PTS/4AST/3REB/3BLK/STL stat line all in the first half. I think it's evident Willard will be giving him an extended look following his performance against the Flyers.
4. We understand why you would want to change the site name from Gonzo Ball after Bobby was canned and the insanity that followed. So why South Orange Juice?
The name change was a must. It wasn't even about the lack of success during the Bobby Gonzalez era, but what ensued following the season. When Bobby was fired, I thought long and hard about keeping the name. I wanted to keep it, I really did. I'm a big fan of Hunter S. Thompson and wanted to stick out the Gonzo name in a tribute to gonzo journalism. Not that blogging falls under gonzo journalism, but I thought it kind of fit a new-media blog about college basketball. My writing on the site is filled with enthusiasm, emotion and passion, much of what gonzo journalism is all about. Don't believe me? Check in after a heartbreaking loss, as there's been a ton of them over the last 1.5 years that I've been running Gonzo/SOJ. It's why I love writing a fan-blog opposed to traditional media, I'm allowed to show emotion whether I'm ecstatic or pissed off following a basketball game. That all changed when I woke up and saw, "Former Seton Hall coach, Bobby Gonzalez, arrested for shoplifting a man-purse." It was good night to Gonzo Ball.
As far as the name South Orange Juice goes, a talented and witty buddy of mine who happens to be a die-hard Connecticut Huskies fan (I apologize SOJ readers), used it in a freestyle one night and it stuck. Of course, Seton Hall is located in South Orange, New Jersey.
5. Any predictions for the game?
Seton Hall 78, USF 74 (OT) as the Pirates get a little revenge from last year's 76-74 OT loss.