The key word for the Pirates is balanced. Balanced scoring, rebounding and defense make the Jerseyans a tough out for any foe.
Leading the parade at point guard is All-America candidate Andre Barrett (5-10, 170). Barrett leads the team in scoring at 17.7 points per game, has a sterling 2-1 assist to turnover ratio, leads the team in steals and is the squad's best three-point shooter. Although there's no truth to the rumor that he also sells popcorn at halftime, the outstanding senior is very desrving of his Wooden Award semifinalist status.
Joining Barrett is guard John Allen (6-5, 210), who averages 12.8 points and a strong 5.0 rebounds per game from his shooting guard spot. Allen is a 78% free throw shooter and also a strong defender who can physically dominate opponents.
Forwards Andre Sweet and Marcus Toney-El are bookend forwards who cause matchup problems for opponents. Both stand six-feet-six and weight in the 210-215 pound range. They have the quickness to guard on the perimeter and the strength to pound in the lane, and can readily adjust to different styles of play. Sweet averages 10.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, while Toney-El records 7.2 points and 5.7 boards per outing. They are joined in the middle by center Kelly Whitney (6-8, 240) who averages 13.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
Off the bench, swingman J. R. Morris (6-5, 205) gets a lot of action and makes the most of it, with 11.2 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. Damion Fray (6-8, 235) and Grant Billmeier (6-10, 245) provide most of the reserve work in the paint, combining for 4.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
West Virginia guard Patrick Beilein vs. Seton Hall guard J. R. Morris
Although neither of these players is typically in the starting lineup, their production is usually key to their teams' success.
|Wed 2/4 7:00 p.m.|
WVU 11-7, 3-4
SH 14-4, 4-2
WVU - 95
SH - 20
|Margin: SH +5|
His counterpart, Morris, is very similar in terms of the effect he has on the game. Only starter Andre Barrett has more three-point attempts than Morris, whose quick scoring bursts off the bench make him one of five Seton Hall players who average in double figures.
Defensively, Beilein doesn't have the ability to match up one on one, but he is savvy. The son of head coach John Beilein has improved his positioning this year, and as a a result has gotten some key steals and grabbed several rebounds, especially when playing at the four position. He's also one of the best Mountaineer defenders at drawing charging fouls.
These two players might not battle head-to-head very often, but a comparison of their stat lines at the end of the game will very likely point the way to the winner of the contest.
WVU expects Seton Hall to come out in man to man and pressure shooters all over the floor, much as Georgetown, St. John's and Villanova did. To counter that strategy, Mountaineer players must be willing to put the ball on the floor, drive, and create space either for themselves to shoot for for a pass to a cutting teammate.
One problem with this is that they are not a particularly good shooting team on the move. While many WVU players knock down jumpers, only Tyrone Sally and D'or Fischer have proven to be good, consistent shooters off the dribble or under pressure.
Players like Jarmon Durisseau-Collins, Joe Herber and Tyler Relph will be under the gun to make moves, get open and create points. They'll have to be consistent at that task from the start in order not to fall out of the game early.
Getting behind by big margins in the first half is something that WVU desperately needs to avoid, because when it happens, the Mountaineers are usually headed for a loss. Although West Virginia certainly doesn't quit, they usually run out of gas after they battle back from 16 or 18 point deficits, and thus don't have enough left to push over the top and get a win. If WVU can keep the game close in the first half, it could be a very entertaining night for Mountaineer fans.
WVU's 1-3-1 defense is continuing to cause many problems. Despite not being blessed with an overabundance of speed or quickness, the Mountaineers have snagged 35 steals in their last three games.
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Seton Hall is 10-2 since the return of starting center Kelly Whitney to the lineup after missing the first semester due to academic problems. That record isn't a fluke, as Whitney has provided the inside strength and height which rounds out the Pirate's powerful lineup.
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Just like West Virginia, Seton Hall is celebrating the 100th anniversary of their basketball program this year.
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The Pirates will play one regular season game less than the minimum this year after their contest with East Carolina was cancelled due to travel problems arising from a snowstorm. The two schools could not agree on an acceptable makeup date, and so the game was dropped.