Welcome back to another edition of Bulls Recon. Today we have GonzoBallSHU from South Orange Juice over to talk a little Seton Hall basketball. In this edition, we talk about the emergence of Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope, Seton Hall's rise back to the Top 25, and of course Big East expansion.
1. I think most people thought Seton Hall would be better this year, but I don't think anyone could have expected this. How does it feel having a nationally ranked team again?
It feels incredible. It's no secret that the University's image took quite a hit due to events that have transpired around the program the last few years. For that bitter taste to finally leave our mouths in Kevin Willard's second year is a breath of fresh air for everyone involved with Seton Hall Basketball. Oh, that's right, you asked about being nationally ranked?!? In the days after beating UConn and Providence, we extensively speculated on SOJ and Twitter as to a) whether they'd be ranked and b) what their ranking would be. I openly admitted that I was making a huge deal about potentially breaking into the polls. When you haven't been ranked in over a decade, it is.
2. For those who haven't seen the Pirates play this year, can you give us a brief breakdown of what to expect from The Hall on Friday?
Throughout the non-conference slate, the Pirates offense ran through senior F/C, Herb Pope (17.5/10.8), who looks like the player we all expected him to become, improving from his terrific sophomore season, two years back. However, since conference play began, Pope has been seeing plenty of double and even, triple-team looks, forcing his teammates to take on larger roles. Fellow senior and captain of the squad, Jordan Theodore, is starting to receive discussion as a national player of the year candidate and for good reason. Theodore (16.5/7.6) has already recorded 4 double-doubles this season, has set career highs in points and assists against DePaul and put the team on his shoulders to lead them to victory in numerous games this season. In the last three games alone, JT made pivotal jumpers that either stopped a run, or effectively broke the opponent's back. He's been nothing short of unbelievable. The Pirates are surprisingly loaded with shooters, Fuquan Edwin is turning into a stud before our eyes and they're even getting contributions from freshmen Aaron Cosby and Brandon Mobley. Defensively, they'll show a 2-3 zone look nearly 75% of the time, but have the ability to confuse opponents by switching to man-to-man for brief stints.
3. Herb Pope and Jordan Theodore have developed as one of the best inside-outside combinations in the conference. How great has it been to see both of them develop into possible All-Big East players?
I really should have read this question before answering #2! It's true, their inside-outside combo is pretty potent. When opponents throw an extra man or two Pope's way, he uses his outstanding distribution skills to either find a streaking teammate or a Pirate camped around the perimeter. Pope will also occasionally find himself around the top of the key, where he's able to knock down an occasional trey or surprise onlookers with a nifty pass worthy of most point guards. Jordan's filthy in penetration this season, whereas in years past, he'd hit traffic and end the possession with an ugly circus shot. Now, he's being more careful; making the right decision and dropping pretty dimes all over the court. Both players have spoken about their absence from the NCAA tournament in their years at Seton Hall and you'd have to believe it's one of the driving forces behind the improvement in their games this season.
4. What do you think of the new Big East members? Do you think The Hall will be able to permanently move up in the Big East hierarchy once Pitt, WVU, and Syracuse leave?
Obviously, it sucks. I grew up with Big East basketball and attending the Tournament at the Garden. My children won't be able to watch us compete in the best conference in basketball any longer. That is, unless Houston, SMU and UCF turn into unlikely powerhouses. The sad reality is that football is about to break up our conference. Understandably, schools without football programs are going to take it harder than those who do, but that's neither here nor there. As far as Seton Hall's outlook for the future, Kevin Willard has it looking very bright. Between dusting off our name in the AP Poll and landing Aquille Carr last week, Pirates' fans are felling pretty good right now. Of course, winning on the court and the recruiting trail will need to continue, but for now, things certainly look a lot more promising than if you would have asked me a year or two ago.
5. Finally, how do you see this one ending up?
Although there's not an easy road win in this conference and one certainly won't come in Tampa, I think the Pirates are too hot and tough for the Bulls right now. They're still playing with a chip on their shoulder after they were somehow left out of the Coaches poll on Monday. Gilchrist and Fitzpatrick will work to slow Herb Pope, but I don't know that the same can be said for USF defenders against Jordan Theodore and Fuquan Edwin. I'm going to go with Seton Hall 70, South Florida 62.
Thanks again to Gonzo for helping us out today, and make sure to head over to South Orange Juice for my answers to his questions later on in the day.