Sunday, March 16, 2008

CBI?

Unsurprisingly, the NIT-pickers have overlooked Seton Hall's achievements, leaving our beloved Pirates out in the cold. But wait! There's hope!! The CBI has yet to announce their bracket...

Although a tournament with very little cache in its inaugural year, I think this would be the perfect venue for Seton Hall to shine.

Basically, our seniors just want a chance to play.

CBI, if you're listening, don't let our dream die.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Madison Square Garden...of Eden?


Well. Where do I begin? It doesn’t happen too often, but I am at a complete loss of words. Speechless. What can I say? What should I say? What won’t I say?

Should I begin with the fuddy-duddy cheese heads from Marquette who sat in front of us? Or should I begin with the surreal atmosphere of the Garden as fans from every BIG EAST team wore their school colors loud and proud?

No, I will begin with St. Augustine himself. Living up to his nickname, Okosun played with divine intervention last night. As if a holy spirit had invaded his body, Okosun slashed to the basket, grabbed offensive and defensive rebounds, set menacing picks, and, true-to-form, had one bank jam. Playing with a newfound confidence, Okosun truly wanted the ball and had this look in his eye as if he could single-handedly put this team on his back and carry them to victory (I know this because twice during the game he looked right into my eyes, which technically adds up to a total of four eye-contacts).

Playing for all those unheralded collegiate athletes (Young Mase) who won’t have the chance to go to the NCAA Tournament, much less the BIG EAST tournament, Okosun looked possessed and otherworldly. Too bad the usual supporting cast of demons from Seton Hall also showed up.

After Okosun fouled out with 10 minutes left, an unusual phenomenon happened. One by one, Seton Hall’s two other big men Mike Davis and John Garcia fouled out, symbolically marking the downfall of the Hall. Down to a six-man rotation with over four minutes left, it is almost fitting that Wawa Walters took the court and finished the game. A man who averages under four nanoseconds a game, he looked a little lost and out of his element on the court – but what can you expect from someone who hasn’t played since grade school?

While some might look at Wawa’s entrance as a sign of desperation and defeat, I prefer to see it as emblem of change. With the NIT a possibility, the season may not be over, but there is definitely a changing of the guard (literally). Brian Laing and Jamar Nutter will not be around much longer and while their heroics will be missed, other guys have to rise to the challenge and fill Laing and Nutter’s size 12 shoes. I can only hope it will be Augustine Okosun and Brandon Walters. Nobody deserves it more.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Third Time's a Charm


I could begin this post talking about the Rutgers game. About the questionable calls down the stretch. About the off-balance, game-winning, three-pointer from J.R. Inman. About the fact that Gonzo almost punched Fred Hill in the mouth, with good reason I might add.

Or what about the fact that Dave and I sat in our seats completely dumbstruck by the loss, refusing to vacate the arena even after the ushers threatened us with violence. A move that would later pay major dividends, as the Seton Hall players would congregate half-an-hour later in the Ice lounge with the university boosters – a group which we would go on to infiltrate. Mike Davis, Stix, Paul Gause. They were all there. We talked strategy with John Garcia’s father. We stared awkwardly at Eugene Harvey’s brother. We learned that Robert Mitchell carries multiple other nicknames in addition to “Stix,” including “Sticky” and “Sticky Icky.”

It was an eye-opening experience to say the least. We learned about the inner workings of the team, heard all the gossip, saw the world behind the curtain. (We’ll post more about this another time.)

But for now let’s focus on the future. Because that future starts tomorrow.

On Wednesday night, Seton Hall faces off against Marquette in the first round of the Big East tournament. It will be the third time the Hall faces the Golden Eagles this season, and there’s quite a lot of bad blood between these squads.

Despite the fact that Seton Hall lost both meetings, there’s reason to be optimistic. After squandering a big lead against RU, the Hall is a team with some unfinished business. Seniors Jamar and Brian deserved to be sent off with a win, and the team failed to deliver. Well, you can bet the Hall will do everything in their power to turn things around in NYC.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Thank You


We like to pride ourselves for writing basketball related posts that have a human element to them. We know we don’t offer the analysis that ESPN has, the insight that Gary Cohen has, or even the brilliance that Adam Zagoria has. And we don’t pretend to. What we prefer to offer is a unique insight into Seton Hall Basketball. An insight that only a “friend” might have. This is why tomorrow’s game against in-state rival Rutgers is all that more special, all the more emotional.

Tomorrow’s game has no impact on Seton Hall’s standing in the BIG EAST tournament and will most likely not affect the Hall’s chances of making the NCAA tournament. Tomorrow is Senior Night, which means it is the last game senior co-captains Brian Laing and Jamar Nutter will play at home in front of the Seton Hall faithful.

In a season that can best be described as a roller-coaster ride on the Personal Rapid Transit system – full of ups and downs, peaks and valleys – there have been two constants. One, the wild and often out-of-control antics of Head Coach Bobby Gonzalez and two, the unquestionable leadership of Brian Laing and the indisputable passion of Jamar Nutter.

So Brian and Jamar – thank you. Thank you Brian for your ridiculous stamina and willingness to play nearly every minute of every game while matching up against players often 4-5 inches taller than you. Thank you Jamar for nailing huge three pointer after huge three pointer and for playing with a fiery zeal that uplifted the spirits of the weary and inspired the often uninspired. (Though he may have never felt comfortable telling you, because that’s not the kind of man he is, your uncle is very proud of you – he felt comfortable telling us.)

So Brian and Jamar – thank you. Thank you for being the leaders of this inexperienced and impressionable team. Thank you for being that constant in a season that had so many variables. Thank you for being our friends.

So as you prepare yourself to play your final home game in front of all your family and friends, we want you to know that all your hard work and efforts have been appreciated. Not only have you led a team that many say has overachieved, but you have had an impact on so many people’s lives.

So thank you. Thank you for everything. And know that wherever you go and wherever you play, you will have two fans who will literally go the extra mile, just as you have done for the past four years.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

"Team" Exhausted After 'Cuse



Exhaustion. Pure and utter exhaustion.

After 17 conference games, a grueling out-of-conference schedule, and a lack of depth off the bench, Dave and I are simply beat. Also, I think Brian Laing may be slightly tired as well. The man has played virtually every single minute of every single game, and he routinely matches up against players twice his size. Last night was no different. For a good five minutes against Syrcause, Gonzo opted to have Laing defend the biggest man in the world, Arinze Onuaku, whose last name has more vowels than some entire languages.

But back to us for a minute. Dave and I have done everything for this team. There was the drive to WV, sure. My intrepid Acela ride to DC, of course. And don’t even get me started on the hour and a half subway ride out to St. John’s. But even home games proved a struggle for us. Though a great bargain at $1.50, the PATH train leaves much to be desired. It also sometimes doesn’t leave at all, with its passengers enclosed, growing frustrated, staring at each other, thinking to themselves, “What burdens my fellow man carries…” And now, they’re hiking the price to $1.75!

Simply put, our team is wearing down. During last night’s game, we could barely muster a cheer. Mostly, the pain is in my knees. But I did pull it together for a split second to scream at Eugene Harvey. Here is the transcript of that “conversation:”

Ben: HARVEY, ARE YOU LISTENING? YOU ARE THE POINT GUARD; THE LEADER OF THIS TEAM. WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO START PLAYING LIKE I KNOW YOU CAN.

Eugene: (stony silence)

In hindsight, maybe I was being too harsh on Nunu. But in hindsight, Nunu would be putting up 20 / 20 every night. And the bottom line is this: he’s just a little lazy. A little self-satisfied. A little too nonchalant.

Eugene, if you’re listening this time, do me a favor: START ACTING CHALANT. Because we’re going to need you against Rutgers. And that is one game we cannot lose. Dave and I have worked too hard this season. You owe it to your “seniors.”

Monday, March 3, 2008

Maturity



After turning 23 this past weekend, I return to the Blog a little wiser. It’s the difference between a boy and a man. Between a win and a loss. Between Jason Williams and Michael Jordan.

And just like MJ, I didn’t make my high school basketball varsity team. But that’s beside the point, although still very much top-of-mind. The bottom line is that Seton Hall played one of the most epic games of basketball I’ve ever seen on Saturday, and it would be foolish not to celebrate such a wonderful show of sport. Ordinarily I would complain about the questionable coaching and general lack of mental toughness down the stretch, but not today. Because today, I’m a little more mature than that.

Allow me to paint the scene, using words instead of paint. With 8 seconds left, the score was tied. St. Johns had the ball. Gonzo opted to press, which would prove costly, as Anthony Mason Jr. would be left open for a three, his fifth of the game. It’s hard to describe exactly how insane Young Mase played in the second half. With a haircut half Arsenio Hall, half Beetlejuice from the Howard Stern Show, Young Mase went absolutely nuts. Taking after his father who used to shave motivational messages into the side of his head while playing on the Knicks, Young Mase went literally insane. He hit everything.

Anyway, back to the game. So, with 2 seconds remaining, Eugene Harvey inbounded the ball to Hazell, who caught the ball at the other team’s three-point line. Shooting a bit prematurely, Hazell launched a prayer of unimaginable depth. But somewhere God was listening. Because the shot banked home. All of Queens falls silent. Magic has happened.

But wait!! Gonzo called timeout before the shot was released! No good! Doesn’t count!

As I said before, I refuse to criticize the Hall for this performance. This was one of the most incredible finishes I’ve ever witnessed, albeit terribly devastating. But the outcome was more far-reaching than just the outcome of the game.

Dave had been in Facebook correspondence with Jeremy Hazell all week, and it was looking likely that the Rain Man himself might make an appearance at the party. But after such a devastating loss, Hazell just didn’t have it in him. He was too dejected. Too distraught.

Jeremy, my man, I feel your pain. There’s always next year. In Jerusalem!