Andre Drummond didn’t know who Herb Pope was prior to No. 8 UConn’s trip to Seton Hall, but the name he most likely learned during the Pirate’s 75-63 win on Tuesday was that of Jordan Theodore.
The Pirate point guard was sensational as Seton Hall won their first game against UConn in 3,958 days, finishing with 19 points, 11 assists, three steals and a number of big buckets in the second half to prevent the Huskies from building any kind of momentum.
The statement “big buckets” in the second half is kind of ironic, I know, as the Pirates flat out drilled UConn on this night. Think about this: UConn was hot early, hitting three threes in the first four minutes of the game as they jumped out to a 11-2 lead. Over the next 16 minutes? Seton Hall outscored the Huskies 31-11, which included a 16-3 run to close the first half. UConn was able to trim a 35-22 halftime deficit to 10, but they never made things interesting after the break.
The one, very basic, question that we are now forced to ask: is this Seton Hall team is ‘for real’?
Personally, I hate asking whether a team is ‘for real’, if for no other reason that the term is incredibly vague and has different connotations for different teams. After Indiana knocked off Ohio State on New Year’s Eve, folks were asking whether or not Indiana was ‘for real’. Not even the most delusional Seton Hall fan would dare think that the Pirates are currently on the same level as the Hoosiers.
What we can say is this: Seton Hall has put themselves into incredible position to make a run at an at-large bid. Why? Because this win over the Huskies is far from the only impressive thing they have done this season. Just five days ago, the Pirates knocked off a better-than-we-thought West Virginia team by 19 points in the Prudential Center. They also own a win at Dayton, victories over Wake Forest and Auburn and knocked off both St. Joseph’s and VCU in Charleston.
On Tuesday afternoon, Andy Glockner’s bubble watch was released at SI.com, and he said that Seton Hall would “obviously would be in today” while emphasizing that we needed to have “some continued restraint given the lack of a true marquee win.” I think a dominating victory over a top ten team would qualify as a marquee victory.
Seton Hall’s next five games are fairly unimpressive as well, as they host DePaul and Notre Dame while traveling to Providence, South Florida and Villanova. Assuming they go 4-1 in that stretch, Seton Hall will head into the most important stretch of their season — home for Louisville, at Marquette, at UConn in the span of eight days — with a record of 17-3 overall and 6-2 in the Big East.
The Pirates are going to be garnering plenty of attention over the next month.
But is that attention warranted?
Is Seton Hall the team that has blown out West Virginia and UConn at home, or are they the group that was completely and thoroughly abused at Syracuse six days ago? Don’t forget about that performance, Seton Hall fans. You lost 75-49 to a team that didn’t get a single point out of their leading scorer.
The answer, frankly, lies somewhere in the middle — Kevin Willard’s team is not as bad as they played against Syracuse and they aren’t as good as they looked on Tuesday night against UConn. I know that’s a cop out, but its true. You cannot simply overlook a no-show performance and write it off as a “one of those nights”. What happens if Seton Hall has “one of those nights” against Providence on Saturday? Or in the first round of the Big East Tournament?
And, frankly, what’s to stop us from saying UConn lost tonight because they had “one of those nights”? Outside of Jeremy Lamb, only two players from UConn came to play Tuesday — Niels Giffey and Tyler Olander — and they aren’t exactly who we talk about when we say UConn has a roster stocked with potential NBA draft picks.
Jordan Theodore (who was once considered a better prospect than his AAU teammate Kemba Walker) and Herb Pope (who was once thought to be one of the best big man recruits in the country) are both showing why they had the hype they did at the amateur level. Fuquan Edwin is a much-improved offensive weapon and a playmaker on the defensive end. Patrick Auda and Aaron Cosby have been reliable role players. Brandon Mobley showed why had some hype when he joined the Seton Hall team five games ago.
No one is questioning whether or not the Pirates are a good basketball team this season.
But there is no need to place unwarranted expectations on this group. They are winning because they are playing every game like their season depends on it. Making this group think they are good enough to win just by showing up — kind of like what UConn did tonight — will result in more tallies showing up in the loss column.
If beating UConn at home ends up being the highlight of their season, than this won’t have been a very productive year for the Pirates.
What We Learned
– This isn’t exactly a secret, as he is currently leading the country in steals, but you cannot be lazy with the ball around Fuquan Edwin. He notched two more steals against the Huskies. That said, Edwin’s production was more than just his defense on this night. He finished with a double-double (12 points, 11 boards), scored in transition and flourished in the role of the glue-guy. Edwin is to Seton Hall as Pepco is to BIAH HQ: he’s the one that brings the energy, and tonight you saw why.
– Herb Pope is not the best big man in the Big East. He’s good — you have to be good when you are still averaging a double-double two months into the season — but his physical limitations get exposed when he plays against bigger, more athletic front lines. Pope is a combined 9-29 in the two games against UConn and Syracuse. That said, he’s a physical presence in the paint and a guy that can get rebounds and score on putbacks. Most importantly, however, Pope didn’t quit tonight despite a slow start to the game. We couldn’t say as much against Syracuse.
– Now do you see why Seton Hall fans were excited about Brandon Mobley? The freshman who is five games into his career after battling a shoulder injury had eight points and seven boards in the first half to help lead Seton Hall back.
– Who saw Peter Dill at the end of the Seton Hall bench?
– UConn isn’t going to miss Kemba Walker’s ability as a basketball player nearly as much as they are going to miss his ability to be a leader. UConn has no emotional spark. They have no vocal presence on the floor. They have no one that is willing to say “enough of this BS, y’all gonna play tonight?” There isn’t a presence in their huddle holding them accountable for mistakes and lazy play. And there isn’t anyone with that killer instinct capable of hitting the step-on-your-throat shots down the stretch.
– That issue is only exacerbated without Jim Calhoun’s presence on the bench.
– UConn’s body language was horrible in this game. After Theodore hit a pair of threes midway through the second half to push the lead to 15, UConn looked like they had given up. That’s not something you want to see out of a team that is expected to compete for the Big East title and contend for a Final Four.
– I’ll make this prediction: this is the worst game that we will see UConn play all season long. Shabazz Napier was 2-12 from the field. Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi combined for six points and seven boards. You’d be quickly forgiven if you didn’t realize Deandre Daniels and Roscoe Smith played. Much of that can be credited to the play of Seton Hall, but that doesn’t change the fact that this was an all-around atrocious performance from the Huskies.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.