Jersey Hoops

This week in Jersey Hoops, and looking ahead to Rutgers-Miami and Seton Hall-Kansas

Mixed results for Seton Hall with Kansas looming, and tests await for Rutgers after running through inferior squads

Mixed results last week as the Hall followed a buzzer beater upset of Memphis with a loss to Oklahoma and a (somewhat) stunning defeat at the hands of Siena. While the win against Penny Hardaway’s Tigers was exciting, the ESPN Events Invitational Tournament was unkind to the Pirates, and coach Shaheen Holloway will look to get his squad fresh and re-focused ahead of a matchup with Kansas at Phog Allen Fieldhouse this Thursday.

11/24, vs Memphis (W, 70-69)

The Good: The game wasn’t exactly a barnburner—both teams had 17 turnovers, shot under 30% from 3PT and combined for 49 personal fouls. The Hall’s defensive effort was a pleasure to watch, though. Sure, they couldn’t hold Kendric Davis under his season PPG average—the talented guard tallied 22 points in an impressive individual performance—but he was one of only two Tigers who scored in double figures.  

The Bad: We repeat: 17 turnovers. You can’t continuously cough the ball up this many times and expect to beat good teams. Luck was on the Pirates’ side tonight.

The Numbers: 100%: The Pirates FT% down the stretch. When Seton Hall could ill-afford to miss free-throws—five minutes left in a tightly contested game—Tyrese Samuel, Dre Davis and Khadary Richmond went a combined 9 for 9 from the stripe.

11/25, vs Oklahoma (L, 77-64)

The Good: Seton Hall kept this game within reach for over 30 minutes and seemingly did well to get two key members of Oklahoma’s frontcourt in foul trouble (Tanner Groves, averaging over 10 PPG, would ultimately foul out with only 8 points). 

Al-Amir Dawes had a nice night from 3PT, shooting 80% (4 for 5) from behind the arc, and led the Hall in scoring with 12 points. Dawes was one of only two Pirates to connect from distance—the other, Jamir Harris, went 1-3. 

KC Ndefo scored in double digits for the second time this season; the senior forward also posted a team high 71.4 FG%. Dre Davis contributed 10 points off the bench, a feat he’s accomplished in all but one of the contests he’s featured in.

The Bad: Seton Hall was losing Oklahoma’s shooters all game long. The Sooners torched the Pirates from 3PT land (10 for 20) as Holloway’s squad simply couldn’t rotate effectively or defend the perimeter at all. 

Tyrese Samuel is having a really tough time converting around the basket. The senior forward finished with 6 points, shooting 3-8 from the floor (without attempting a 3PT basket). 

The Numbers: 14 turnovers: Certainly trending in the right direction considering the Pirates have only had fewer TO’s just once this season (12 vs Wagner). This total is a little misleading though, as many of the turnovers were unforced errors—particularly errant passes that should have resulted in easy baskets, not a loss of possession.

11/27, vs Siena (L, 60-55)

The Good: No one got hurt (physically).

The Bad: It’s still early, but the Hall has failed to exhibit the conditioning, familiarity or composure to thrive in Holloway’s system. The shooting numbers are bad and turnovers are worse—especially when you account for how many are self-inflicted (errant passes, lost dribble, etc.). 

Setting Tyrese Samuel up in the low-post is a project gone wrong to date. The senior forward is not attempting enough jumpshots and just can’t seem to get comfortable with his back to the basket or finishing around the rim despite his athletic/size advantage. 

Dynamic lead guards had their way with Seton Hall in this tournament—none of them were surprise performers that would have contradicted a scouting report, either (also worth noting that there were no mismatch issues due to size advantage as the opposing guards all had a listed height of 6’2” or below). Memphis’ Kendric Davis and Oklahoma’s Grant Sherfield scored above their season averages with 22 and 25 points, and Siena’s Javian McCollum led Siena in scoring with 14 points.

The Numbers: 62.5 FT%, 32.7 FG% and 11.1% from 3PT (on only 9 attempts): Seton Hall’s shooting numbers vs Siena.

69.1 FT%, 42.9 FG%, 35.2 3PT%: the Hall’s season averages thus far, which rank nationally at #205, #259 and #117, respectively (per KenPom). 

46.9%: the Pirates’ shooting % inside the arc this season (#260 national ranking). 

Seton Hall’s objective has been to force the ball inside, get (theoretically) high percentage looks, draw contact and get to the free-throw line; however, the Pirates’ have been unable to finish around the basket or fully capitalize on drawing fouls with below average free-throw shooting. Hopefully they can start generating a few more drive and kick opportunities and incorporate the two-man game—particularly the pick-and-pop with Tyrese Samuel or even Tray Jackson, both of whom have a mid and long-range jumpshot in their bag. As it stands, although they work hard on both ends and play with a lot of physicality, the Hall is an easy team to guard. 

Kansas Preview: What Seton Hall could use right now is a matchup with a low mid-major to right the ship and cleanse the palate after a couple of poor results. Instead, they travel to Lawrence, Kansas, to play in arguably the toughest gym in the country against last year’s national champions. 

This is certainly not the game for subpar effort or mental lapses on either end of the floor. The Jayhawks roster is long, athletic, skilled and they know their roles very well. Bill Self’s squad is elite defensively, ranked #13 in the nation by KenPom, and on offense, every starter has the ability to fill up the score sheet.

The Jayhawks’ two major offensive threats are junior forward Jalen Wilson and freshman guard Gradey Dick. The offense runs through Wilson, he’s “the guy” for Kansas—the 6’8” wing, averaging almost 23 PPG, can hit from anywhere and also loves to put the ball on the floor and attack the basket. Wilson will undoubtedly be tough to contain, yet, it’s Dick who has the potential to be a real nightmare for the Hall. When he’s on (and we’ve only seen him have one “average” game so far), the 6’8” “guard” is lethal from outside, averaging 46% from 3PT on the season.

Kansas’ starting five doesn’t have a traditional big man with imposing size (though they have plenty of size coming off the bench), but freshman PF/C KJ Adams Jr., plays bigger than his listed height of 6’7” and is not to be overlooked. He knows what to do with the ball—not afraid to dribble, makes good passes—and, even though he’s the fifth option, can get buckets when called upon .

While the win over Memphis was technically an upset (an exciting one at that) beating Kansas at home, where the Jayhawks boast a win percentage of 87.5%, would be a historic victory for this Pirates program—and one that may require an act of God.

Following a tough neutral site loss to Temple without Paul Mulcahy, Rutgers returned to action against Rider and Central Connecticut State University (KenPom rankings of #227 and #345, respectively) last week. Both games were lopsided wins with an average margin of victory of 32 points. 

What some thought might be a potentially dangerous (or at least interesting) matchup in Rider, especially with Mulcahy and tri-captain Caleb McConnell sidelined, never materialized and midway through the first half, the Scarlet Knights opened up a 10 point lead that would only grow as the game progressed. As expected, the story was much the same against a CCSU squad still looking for their first win of the season (0-8). This game offered very little intrigue as the Blue Devils are one of the worst teams in Division 1, but it did provide Rutgers fans with the opportunity to get an extended look at the underclassmen and bench players. 

11/22 vs Rider (W, 76-46) & 11/26 vs CCSU (W, 83-49)

The Good: Last week was an invaluable opportunity for freshman guard Derek Simpson to get more experience in the starting lineup. Filling in for the injured Mulcahy (shoulder), the still green underclassmen averaged 11 points, 3 assists and 24.5 minutes over the two games. No timetable has been announced yet for Mulcahy’s return, and in his absence, the Scarlet Knights will be forced to lean on Simpson for some production and poise beyond his years. 

The CCSU contest marked the return of Caleb McConnell. While not yet back to his old form, the senior wing came off the bench and logged a solid 25 minutes vs the Blue Devils. McConnell’s veteran presence/composure and defensive acumen will be sorely needed over the next stretch of games.

The Bad: There’s not much to nitpick as the last two games were fairly clinical for the Scarlet Knights. At home, against lesser opponents, Rutgers continues to take care of business without issue. The only negative we could posit would be Paul Mulcahy’s injured shoulder. 

The Numbers: 25.0 FG%, 10.5 3PT%: Rider’s shooting numbers.

31.6 FG%, 11.1 3PT%: CCSU’s shooting numbers.

#11: Rutgers’ national ranking on defense, according to KenPom. The merit of Steve Pikiell’s squad’s elite defensive stats will be tested against much better competition this week. 

Miami preview: In their first true road game of the season, Rutgers travels to Coral Gables for a matchup with Jim Larrañaga’s University of Miami squad Wednesday night. The Hurricanes, ranked #44 by KenPom, are 6-1 on the season and a 3.5 point favorite in this contest. 

Led by Middlesex County native, Isaiah Wong, Miami has a very balanced offensive attack: four of their starters average double-figures in scoring, while the fifth is just shy of that mark. Wong leads all Canes’ scorers with 13.4 PPG—the 6’4” guard’s size, athleticism and an exceptional ability to finish make him very difficult to defend. 

In the low post, Miami’s Norchad Omier (6’7”) will have the unenviable task of guarding Rutgers’ Cliff Omoruyi (6’11”), but the sophomore has proven to be very capable on both ends of the floor against good competition—averaging 13.4 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. 

While Miami are at a size disadvantage and don’t shoot the three particularly well, the Hurricanes are the most talented, athletic and physical team that Rutgers has seen all season. Having McConnell available for this one is a big plus, but the lack of experienced depth at point guard will be a concern for the Scarlet Knights heading into this game.

Indiana looming: After Rutgers faces off with Miami, the Scarlet Knights will return to Jersey Mike’s Arena on Saturday for a matchup with nationally ranked (#10, AP Poll and KenPom) Indiana. Picked to contend for first place in the Big Ten, the undefeated Hoosiers have faced just one opponent in the top-200 (Xavier, #32) so far, but this team is loaded with talent and will be a massive test for Rutgers.