Tech travels to New York City to take on the Seton Hall Pirates in Madison
Square Garden on Thursday night. This is an important game for the Hokies, who
are looking to continue their three-game winning streak. If Tech can pull out a
victory over the Pirates, it would do a lot for the Hokies’ RPI rating, which is
a respectable 56.
Seton Hall is a name program from the Big East with a first year coach in
Bobby Gonzalez. Gonzalez enjoyed success at Manhattan before making the jump to
Seton Hall. His offense is fast paced, and he has the Pirates off to a 6-1
start, but their schedule hasn’t exactly been the toughest in the world.
Seton Hall’s strength of schedule ranks 279 in the nation according to
RealTimeRPI.com. They have five victories over Morgan State (310 RPI), St. Peter’s
(302), St. Mary’s (173), Monmouth (201) and Penn State (152). Their one loss
came to Fairleigh Dickinson (124). They also beat Division II Caldwell 91-52.
The Pirates are #145 in the RPI, but since the Hokies are playing them on a
neutral court, a win would count as a road victory in the RPI, which would be a
Hall Starting Lineup
Bobby Gonzalez has dubbed freshman point guard Eugene Harvey as the future of
the Seton Hall program. Harvey is a blur on the court. He can get to the basket
and finish, and he protects the ball well. He has just 18 turnovers in seven
games as a freshman. Harvey’s one flaw is that he isn’t much of a shooter.
He has connected on just 2-of-13 three-pointers on the season for 15.4%.
Brian Laing averages 15.4 points per game, and he is also Seton Hall’s top
rebounder. He and Harvey were both Virginia Tech recruiting targets in high
school, so the Hokie coaching staff are familiar with them. Like Harvey, Laing
can get to the glass, but he doesn’t have much of an outside game. He has hit
just 22.2% of his three-pointers this season.
The third member of the Seton Hall perimeter is off-guard Jamar Nutter. He is
the team’s third leading scorer, and he is hitting 37.5% of his
three-pointers, which is best amongst the starters. But he shoots just 35.5%
overall from the field. And although it hasn’t shown this year against Seton
Hall’s weak schedule, he has had a tendency to turn the ball over in the past.
Stan Gaines and Grant Billmeier are the biggest players on Seton Hall’s
roster. Their numbers aren’t as good as the other three starters, but they can
be productive. Billmeier in particular has put up decent numbers, considering he
plays just 17.4 minutes per game.
Seton Hall’s top player off the bench is 5-11 guard Paul Gause. Gause is
averaging 11 points per game.
Hall plays an up-tempo style, so it is surprising that they haven’t turned the
ball over more with a freshman point guard. The Pirates have just 87 turnovers
on the year, compared to 153 for their opponents. But at the same time, the
Hokies will be by far the best and most athletic team Seton Hall has faced this
Look for the Hokies to spend most of their energy on defense guarding the
dribble penetration and interior. Seton Hall’s two best players don’t have
much of an outside game. They do most of their damage getting to the glass. The
health of Jamon Gordon’s knee will be a key for Tech. It will hurt if Gordon
is not 100%. This will be a low scoring, defensive game, so look for Markus
Sailes to get a lot of playing time off the bench for Tech.
If this game were in Cassell Coliseum, Virginia Tech would be the definite
pick. The Hokies are now 6-0 at home on the season. They are a better, more
experienced team than Seton Hall. But this game is in Madison Square Garden, and
the Hokies are just 1-3 in neutral site games. That alone is cause for concern.
That said, I can see this one going in the same direction as last year’s
game with Stanford in Las Vegas. Of course, it’s worth mentioning that Coleman
Coleman Collins had 16 points and 12 rebounds against Stanford, and that was his
fourth double-double in a six game span at that point in the season. If Collins
can ever get back to approaching those types of numbers this year, Tech will be
tough to beat.
One last interesting note on Seton Hall: they have not played a real game
since December 9. Because of this long layoff, the Pirates played an exhibition
game, which does not count towards their record, against William Patterson last
Friday. Seton Hall won 83-56. Other than that, the Pirates have not played an
opponent that counts in nearly two weeks.
The Seton Hall Pirates check in at a nifty 6-1 on the 2006-2007 season. That
looks pretty good on the surface, but Seton Hall has played a schedule so soft
that even the Keebler elves would be making cupcake jokes galore. Seton Hall is
led by super freshman Eugene Harvey, a 6-foot scoring point guard deluxe; and
Brian Laing, who is one of only two returning Pirate starters. Swingman Laing is
barely second in scoring and leads the Pirates in rebounding.
Seton Hall is 2nd in all of D-1 in defensive steals per game and is 25th in
offensive turnovers per game. This is a reflection of the frenetic style of play
that Seton Hall head coach Bobby Gonzalez used to lift little old Manhattan to
NC2A post-season fame for the previous seven years. Further, it should be noted
that this style of play does not fit the Greenerball modus operandi of winning
games via gaining extra offensive possessions from opposing turnovers very well.
Seton Hall is a smallish team vertically, as they only field one player who
tops 6-7 in their ten-man rotation. However, the Pirates do have four ballers
who top 215 lbs. in that rotation, so there is some bulk involved here. From
what I’m seeing the Hokies have a bit of a defensive edge here, but they
really need Gordon’s knee back at 100% to check Eugene Harvey on the
perimeter, as Harvey is shooting a very lowly 15% from 19-9 this year.
If Gordon can lock Harvey down, then Deron Washington can sag off of Brian
Laing (who is only 22% from downtown this year). Laing does not have much in the
way of an outside game, so sagging will help eliminate his driving to the hoop.
I’m hoping that all the hype associated with playing up in Gotham City and
playing in the highly fabled Madison Square Garden will wake our sleepy hoops
team up. This one will be a low scoring affair, but this group of Hokie
upperclassmen seems to play a little harder under the bright lights of big-time
VT 67 Seton Hall 65