There were few story lines better in the early part of Big East play than the performance of the Seton Hall. A traditional bottomfeeder, the Pirates began the season on a tear winning 13 of their first 15 games and 4 of their first 5 Big East games. They looked like they had finally turned the corner as a basketball program in the most difficult conference in college basketball. But then the real Seton Hall finally stood up. Sitting pretty at 15 – 2 (4 – 1), the Pirates lost 6 straight and plummeted in the Big East standings. Now at 7 – 7 in the conference heading into Saturday’s game against the Bearcats, Seton Hall looks extremely average and Cincinnati should have a clear edge in this game especially at home. But there’s a fight in the Pirates that we haven’t seen in years and they will be no easy out on Saturday.
The main reason the Pirates appear to be showing their true colors is because they, like most teams, have hit a wall in Big East play. The numbers tell the story. Seton Hall is scoring 9 less points per game than when they were 15 – 2, .11 less points per possession, and their assist/turnover ratio is .36 worse than before. So the Pirates are scoring less points, are less efficient when they have the ball in their hands, and are turning the ball over a ton. This explains why they now sit at .500 in the conference with a big “Sell” sign hanging over their heads.
Players to Watch
- Jordan Theodore (#1): He leads Seton Hall in points per game at 15.8 and will probably be blanketed by Cashmere Wright all night. Theodore is basically a mirror image of Cash in that he’s the field general of the offense but is more productive from a scoring standpoint. What makes the Pirates PG even better is that his assist/turnover ratio has gone through the roof this season (2.4). Theodore is also extremely aggressive with the ball in his hands as he shoots more free throws than all but 3 players in the Big East. With how poorly UC’s guards have defended their counterparts this season, the Bearcats might have to rely in double-teams or the press to knock Theodore out of rhythm.
- Herb Pope (#15): This senior has been playing Big East ball for three years now and has established himself as a rebounding machine for the Pirates. In his sophomore campaign he led the conference in rebounds at 10.7 per game, as a junior he was third in the Big East, and this season he is second with 10.4 rpg. The guy just knows how to get up and defend the glass. It seems like Cincinnati knows how to contain him as the Bearcats have held him to just 11 total rebounds in their last two matchups. Still that’s no excuse for Yancy or Mbodj to just forget about him in the paint.
Final Thoughts and Prediction
Seton Hall is slightly more balanced than Providence but still only rely on a couple players to score points. While an improvement, it’s make-or-break time for the Bearcats who are on the bubble for making the NCAA Tournament right now. Good teams take care of business and beat the opponents they should beat on their schedule. Seton Hall is one of those teams. With a roster full of players who went to the Big Dance last season, UC knows what it takes to get there again and will take down the Pirates on Saturday.
Cincinnati – 78
Seton Hall – 70