Much thanks to GonzoBallSHU for taking the time to do a Q&A. Check back with Gonzo Ball for my answers for their questions about Texas Tech.
Talk a little bit about the type of team that Texas Tech fans can expect to see in Seton Hall.
It would be difficult to tell you what type of team Texas Tech fans will expect to see when Seton Hall fans would have an equally difficult time answering that same question. We've seen every type of play this year and you don't have to look further than Seton Hall's first round BET contest against Providence to see both ends of the spectrum. The Pirates played their best basketball of the year, building a 29 point lead with 13 minutes remaining, however, they would end up winning by just 3 points (109-106) as Providence missed a game-tying 3PT attempt at the buzzer. Throughout the season, the Pirates have suffered from complacency after building a sizable lead and they've shown a lack of killer-instinct when it comes to finishing their opponent. Likewise, in all but the very first game of the season, Seton Hall has been unable to come back when trailing late to win in regulation. Furthermore, they're 0-4 in games that have gone to overtime. If they were to play a perfect game they would attempt to run TT out of the gym. The Pirates have shown that they can run with anyone, except Villanova.
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Seton Hall was one of the NCAA bubble teams going into Selection Sunday, and was probably disappointed in not making the NCAA tournament. Will Seton Hall, falling short of their goal of making the NCAA's, have a negative effect on the Pirates on Tuesday?
Indeed they're disappointed. Bobby Gonzalez made it a point to set expectations squarely on making the NCAA tournament in the offseason, stating, "I'm not going to be satisfied with the NIT." Well, this week, he didn't backpedal from that statement, but he tried to make a respectable case for the NIT. Strangely, Gonzo attempted to relate how they refused to buy their way into the CBI last year to receiving an invitation to the NIT this year. I'm not kidding. When it came down to making the NCAA Tournament, the Pirates probably ended up one conference victory shy. Had they beaten ND in the 2nd round of the BET, they likely would be dancing this week. Ditto if they showed up on the opposite side of the box in any of their overtime contests. I don't know if the Pirates will suffer from a hangover from missing the tournament as after their BET loss they were pretty realistic about their chances. They needed a boat load of help this weekend and the conference tournaments failed to do them any favors. That said, I think the loss of Robert Mitchell may have a negative effect, both emotionally and on the court.
On Sunday, head coach Bobby Gonzalez dismissed forward Robert Mitchell, will this have any effect on the team?
After playing his first season for the Pirates last season (as a sophomore who transferred from Duquesne) as an undersized 4 in Gonzo's offense, he quickly gained the respect of his teammates and fans by battling with the bigs of the BIG EAST conference. He did a respectable job playing out of position, posting 14.7PTS/8REB and many fans considered him the MVP of Seton Hall's 2008-2009 season. He'll be missed as a leader of this squad, both vocally and on the court, throughout the NIT and into next season. I just wrote a post detailing the bizarre dismissal today, I'd encourage your readers to check it out.
If you're Pat Knight, what's your game plan in attacking Seton Hall?
Pound the ball inside, get Herb Pope and Jeff Robinson into quick foul trouble and you'll be off to a good start. Once Pope and JRob get into foul trouble, their replacements aren't physically equipped to hang with bigger, more athletic bodies. When Gonzalez attempts to play his starters while in foul trouble, and he will, they play very timid around the tin, making it extremely easy for the opposition to get inside and score at will. Watch Gonzo's game plan if Pope picks up two early PFs in the first half. He'll remove his big man for the majority of the half, but for whatever reason, will run him back out there towards the end of the half. It happens all the time when a team is on the verge of getting ran out of the gym early, but Bobby will roll players out with 2PF when the deficit is still manageable, especially Pope. He'll roll the dice when it comes to his bigs and to be fair, it's paid off a couple times this season. Most recently, the Pirates got burned badly against Notre Dame as Pope picked up his 3rd in the first half against the Irish, allowing ND to dominate our reserves over the course of the night.
Prediction for the game?
It's extremely tough to put a number on this game without the services of Stix Mitchell. When last faced with adversity and public embarrassment (NYT articles from last Monday discussed at Gonzo Ball), the Pirates played some of their best basketball of the season for 27 minutes. They came away with the win that night, so I'm expecting more of the same on Tuesday night. Realistically, I view this as a toss up game, SHU is ranked 209 in raw defensive efficiency, whereas TT is ranked 202. Let's give the Pirates -3 for home court advantage (although the spread is actually -8.5) and I think the Pirates win this one. That's right, I see the Pirates winning due to the home-court advantage of about 3500 in attendance for this opening round NIT thriller.
Seton Hall 88, TT 83.