Season Opener: FDU Game Primer

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Pirate fans, it has been a long time coming, but the reigning Big East Champions are back in action for the first time since their premature exit of the NCAA Tournament tonight, live from Historic Walsh Gymnasium. Fellow 2016 NCAA Tournament Team Fairleigh Dickinson is coming down the Garden State Parkway for the first game of the season in what should be a tremendous win by the Pirates, impressing an impressive slate of requites who will be at the game. With a banner ceremony before the game, the Pirates have every reason to make a “statement win” in front a sellout crowd during their one game on campus this season.

The core of the Pirates still remains from last season, but there will no doubt be big shoes left to fill with star Isaiah Whitehead going to his hometown Brooklyn Nets in the NBA. Graduate transfer Derrick Gordon’s role, who ran out of years of college legibility, will likely be replaced with another graduate transfer, Madison Jones. While Fairleigh Dickinson is returning most of their team from last season, the Pirates should still make easy work with them, but keep an eye on FDU Forward Earl Potts, named to the NEC’s preseason all-conference team, who could easily be an impact player in tonight’s game. Several members of the Pirates talked about how not being ranked in the Top 25 provides a bunch of motivation for the team, saying how they do best when they are being “disrespected”. Let’s hope that shows up on the court tonight!

As always, Hazard Zet Forward! Look forward to the first “Inside the Enemy Ship” coming before this Sunday’s game against CCSU!

Inside The Enemy Ship: Gonzaga Bulldogs

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After ten years of waiting, the Seton Hall Pirates are back in the NCAA Tournament! The reigning Big East Champions are a 6-seed in the Big Dance, and drew 11-seed Gonzaga in the Midwest region! The euphoria around campus is electric, and it’s spreading around the country as well, with the Pirates being the #4 best selling college team on http://www.fanatics.com, one of the country’s largest sports merchandise retailers. Pirate fever is sweeping the nation!

In this special postseason edition of “Inside the Enemy Ship”, we had the pleasure of speaking to Andy Buhler, the Managing Editor of the Gonzaga Bulletin. Check below for his thoughts on the upcoming game!

BBA: When the regular season started, where did you see Gonzaga going? After 17 straight NCAA tournament appearances, it must be expected at this point, right?
BUHLER: With a preseason No. 9 ranking, a front court dubbed by many as the country’s best and a lot of young talent seemingly poised for a high output right off the bat, there was nothing to dissuade anyone that Gonzaga would put itself in the position it did of having to win the WCC Tournament to secure an auto-bid. But after the loss of Karnowski, a true defensive treasure, the slow early play of the guards and a lot more losses than expected, it appeared as though the wheels might be falling off. That said, when the regular season started, I still saw Gonzaga coming full circle as a starting five and making the tournament. Those top six guys did that, and then some down the stretch.

BBA: What do you think of head coach Mark Few’s comments that the rest of WCC is “dragging the top three down”?
BUHLER: He’s certainly not wrong. I’m sure it’s frustrating having two real perennial competitors each year in conference play. A co-worker, Bulletin sports editor Josh Horton, put it nicely saying “Three teams compete for the top three spots year in and year out. The other six play for fourth.” Four WCC coaching jobs are vacant, so those programs, and the conference by extension, are at a critical juncture.

BBA: Do you think two time All-WCC first team Kyle Wiltjer has a future in the NBA?
BUHLER: At least a three-year future, yes. Regardless, though, Wiltjer has a long career in store in Europe — that, I’m quite sure of. I see him going in the second round and second rounders usually get a guaranteed contract. But it will be tough in those three years for him to create a need for his skillset. A lot of guys can score the ball and aren’t a defensive liability. I see guys like Ryan Anderson, though, and see a glimmer of hope for him.

BBA: How big was the loss of center Przemek Karnowski in December?
BUHLER: Catastrophic. It really would be a different season with him. I don’t think a lot of folks realize how much he impacted the game when he was on the floor from a defensive standpoint. Not to mention his leadership has certainly been missed.

BBA: What was the highlight of Gonzaga’s regular season?
BUHLER: Beating BYU in the Marriott Center on their senior night to close out the regular season. At that point, the Zags were 0-3 against Saint Mary’s and BYU and fresh off a loss at SMU. The scenario of having to win the conference tournament in order to go dancing was starting to look like a legitimate possibility, and at the very least, it needed momentum. Beating BYU in its own house, in what was a gutsy, gutsy win was definitely the highlight.

BBA: Heading into the NCAA Tournament, what are the expectations for the ‘Zags?
BUHLER: I really think now that the 18-year streak is still going, that a first-round exit would not be the end of the world for the Zags. But I know the team expects more and there are a lot of people, myself included, that believe Gonzaga can and will beat Seton Hall.

BBA: Before drawing Seton Hall, was the school common knowledge on the West Coast?
BUHLER: I can’t speak for the entire West Coast, but I had to google the university when they got the draw. I had no clue where it was. I knew it was in the Big East, and the impressive run to close out that conference tournament with wins over Xavier and ‘Nova caught my attention. But I can’t say I’ve seen an entire Seton Hall game.

BBA: Who should the Pirates be most worried about meeting on the court?
BUHLER: A rolling tandem of Wiltjer and Sabonis if Delgado gets in foul trouble. Those two are the team’s on-court leaders and can alter the momentum of any game. If Delgado is on the bench with fouls, the Pirates should be worried.

BBA: Which Seton Hall players do you believe Gonzaga should be most worried about on the court?
BUHLER: Isaiah Whitehead. WCC DPOY Eric McClellan will check him, as will Silas Melson off the bench for spells, but his impact on the game, motor and skill-set should raise concern in the scouting report.

BBA: What is the key for Gonzaga to win this game?
BUHLER: Few-to-no turnovers from McClellan and Perkins and shooting around 50 percent from the field as a team.

BBA: Final Score Prediction?
BUHLER: *Gulp* 78-75 Zags.

BBA: Anything else we should know about Gonzaga?
BUHLER: Starting PG Josh Perkins is from Denver and this will be his first time playing in Denver in three years. Also GU’s fan base travels really well.

While we respectfully disagree with Mr. Buhler’s prediction of a Bulldogs victory (BBA predicts a 77-70 win for the Pirates), we can’t thank him enough for lending his time and expertise to the site! Give him a follow on Twitter @a_buhla, or check out his work on The Gonzaga Bulletin.

The Pirates play in Denver on St. Patrick’s Day, with a 9:57 PM tip-off. For all those Pirates who are still on the East Coast, you can catch every moment on TRU TV, or via the the official NCAA March Madness apps. Now, more than ever, Hazard Zet Forward.

Inside The Enemy Ship: St. John’s Red Storm, Away Edition

Welcome to the latest edition of “Inside the Enemy Ship”, once again featuring our rivals from across the river, St. John’s Red Storm! Our friend Carmine Carcieri was generous enough to share his thoughts on the upcoming game with us; keep on reading below!

BBA: How big was it for the team to get their first Big East win earlier this week? Does it matter that it was against DePaul?
CARCIERI: It was a very big win just for this young team to gain confidence down the stretch and build momentum for what should be a more competitive season next year. Even though DePaul is only ninth in the Big East, the Johnnies had to be pleased with their performance. They won by 15, played strong defense for the majority of the night, moved the ball successfully offensively and hit the glass. The Red Storm held Tommy Hamilton IV and Myke Henry to just 10 points and Billy Garrett Jr. struggled against the likes of Malik Ellison and Felix Balamou.

BBA: Does their one win during Big East play match your expectations for this team when the season started?
CARCIERI: At the beginning of the year, I knew this was going to be a rebuilding year and I certainly knew that playing a balanced league schedule would be too difficult for the Red Storm to be higher than ninth in the standings. But I did expect them to earn more than one conference victory and I still believe they will achieve that. St. John’s has Seton Hall (MSG), DePaul (on the road), Creighton (on the road) and Providence (MSG) to close out the season and honestly none of those teams are unbeatable. I’m not expecting the Red Storm to go on a winning streak but I do think they get at least one more victory.

BBA: Clearly the last game against Seton Hall didn’t go as the Johnnies planned. What went wrong?
CARCIERI: Seton Hall dominated the interior. Angel Delgado and Ismael Sanogo were unstoppable. The Johnnies don’t have physical big men to match up with those two. Kassoum Yakwe is developing his strength, Christian Jones is undersized and Yankuba Sima didn’t play in the first match-up due to a broken hand.

BBA: What will St. John’s have to do differently this time around?
CARCIERI: St. John’s fell apart after halftime at the Prudential Center so this time around they must focus on playing a full 40 minutes. They will have to knock down some perimeter shots, move the ball (similar to how they did against DePaul), get easy buckets in transition and most importantly, gang rebound.

BBA: This time around, who should Seton Hall be most worried about meeting on the court? Why?
CARCIERI: I think it’s either Kassoum Yakwe or Malik Ellison. Both players have improved drastically during conference play. Yakwe has always been an excellent shot blocker but he’s gaining feel around the rim and playing better offensively. Ellison is playing with aggressiveness/confidence, doing a better job of finishing around the rim and his size has been a huge plus for the Red Storm. His steady ball handling and shooting touch from the perimeter gives the Johnnies a better option at lead guard than Federico Mussini.

BBA: What kind of crowd are you expecting at MSG for the game against Seton Hall? Will the recent win help?
CARCIERI: The crowd has been surprisingly excellent all season long. The last two games at Carnesecca Arena were near sell-outs and while I don’t expect that to be the case tomorrow at MSG, there should be a solid presence of St. John’s fans in the house. There should also be a good amount of Seton Hall fans in attendance as well with this being a very important game for their NCAA Tournament hopes (basically they cannot afford to lose).

BBA: Final score prediction?
CARCIERI: Seton Hall 68 St. John’s 65. I’m expecting this to be a lot closer than the first meeting.

Once again, we’d like to thank Mr. Carcieri for taking the time to talk to us; his insight is always appreciated! Tip-off is Noon at MSG, and you can bet Blue Beard Army will be there. As always, Hazard Zet Forward.

Inside the Enemy Ship: Georgetown Hoyas

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Welcome to the latest edition of “Inside the Enemy Ship” as we take our first look at Georgetown Basketball! This week, we had the pleasure of talking to Chris Haines of SB Nation’s Casual Hoya! He let us pick his brain about the upcoming game; check below for his thoughts!

BBA: When the season started, where did you see the Hoyas going?
HAINES: I had very high expectations for the Hoyas this season. I imagined them competing for a Big East title and being a top 15-20 team nationally. I think most Hoyas fans hoped this might be the year they finally broke through the Sweet 16 ceiling.

BBA: Who does Georgetown consider it’s greatest basketball rivalry?
HAINES: Syracuse. No question.

BBA: Who would you consider Georgetown’s greatest Basketball alum? Why?
HAINES: Hard to argue much with Patrick Ewing. Brought the Hoyas their first and only National Championship and went on to a Hall of Fame NBA career.

BBA: Georgetown was 7-5 headed into Big East Conference play, and now is 14-12. How accurately does the record reflect the team this season?
HAINES: Perfectly I think. They’ve been extremely inconsistent and have earned their record. I think they have more talent than their record, but they’ve played to it perfectly.

BBA: When push comes to shove, do you think Georgetown will make the NCAA tournament?
HAINES: Nah. I still think this team is capable of going on a run, but I don’t think they actually will.

BBA: The last game against Seton Hall clearly didn’t go how Georgetown had hoped. What went wrong?
HAINES: Offensive stagnation (mixed with turnovers and a horrid shooting percentage) on one end and on the other too many fouls and offensive rebounds allowed. If the Hoyas protect the ball and hit their shots, they can hang. If they don’t, it has the tendency to get ugly. Fouls are a common theme with this group so we’re not really sure what’ll happen if they don’t foul too much.

BBA: Who should Seton Hall be most worried about meeting on the court this time around? Why?
HAINES: I’m going to go with Isaac Copeland. I went back and forth between him and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. I was leaning towards DSR because he struggled mightily last time out against Providence, but Seton Hall clearly game-planned for him the first time around. Copeland had an awful January, but has found his shot in recent games and I’m hoping he’s still got it.

BBA: Final Score Prediction?
HAINES: I think the Hoyas find a way to build off of an excellent 2nd half against Providence and eke out a win at home, 74-68

Once again, we’d like to thank Chris for his expertise; he was a true gentleman and a scholar, who tweets from @chrismchaines. Tip-off is tomorrow, 9 PM from the Verizon Center in DC, or on your television on Fox Sports 1. As always, Hazard Zet Forward, as the Pirates look to strengthen their NCAA Tournament resume.