Thursday, January 26, 2006

Seton Hall Improves By 71 Points On Tobacco Road

The Seton Hall basketball team has made two trips to the Raleigh-Durham area this season.  Some would argue that the squad did not really show up the first time – in a humiliating 93-40 loss at Duke in November.  On Wednesday, the Pirates tried their luck at North Carolina State.  Seton Hall scored an 83-65 upset, thereby improving by 71 points since the previous trip to Tobacco Road.



The reversal is sure to boost the Pirates, who in the fiasco at Cameron Indoor Stadium had trailed 43-13 at halftime and shot 24% for the game.  Wednesday’s win was a particularly welcome change for Seton Hall players Kelly Whitney, Jamar Nutter, and Paul Gause.  Each member of the trio scored in double figures against the Wolfpack, after combining for 6 points on 2-24 shooting against the Blue Devils.  They had been so bad in Durham, Duke could have played Robin Williams instead of Shelden Williams and still won going away.



This time around, it was the #14-ranked Wolfpack’s turn to be humiliated.  Apparently,  N.C. State was overconfident in playing a team called the Pirates.  The Wolfpack is more familiar with the East Carolina Pirates, who are 0-5 in Conference USA play.  Also, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been irrelevant since Barry Bonds decided that San Francisco would be a wonderful place to be surly to reporters.  Furthermore, N.C. State’s scouting reports considered the Pirates to be poor ballhandlers because they had to dribble with hooks instead of hands.



The Wolfpack may also have been confused because the game was broadcast on ESPN Classic.  Seton Hall had played Villanova on the channel last week, but N.C. State had no such experience.  Seeing the ESPN Classic banner, many Wolfpack players were unsure of whether the contest had already been played or not.  Numerous spectators, hearing that their school would be featured on ESPN Classic, waited in vain to see Lorenzo Charles slam home Derrick Whittenberg’s air ball.



Seton Hall would love to get back to its own glory days, reaching their peak in 1989.  In that season, The Pirates routed Duke in the Final Four and came within three seconds of defeating Michigan for the national championship.  For his efforts, P.J. Carlesimo was named national coach of the year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.  Even though his team came up short in the finals, P.J. was anything but a choker – back then, Latrell Sprewell’s hands were nowhere near his throat.



Seton Hall’s triumph in Raleigh was also part of a great week for the Big East.  Last Saturday, Georgetown shocked the sports world by giving Duke its first loss.  The upset allowed Big East member Connecticut to ascend to the top spot.  Seven conference teams are in this week’s AP poll, with Villanova and West Virginia joining UConn in the top 10.  However, West Virginia experienced an upset of its own on Wednesday, falling to Marshall.  Amazingly, it was not Marshall University, but St. Louis Rams running back Marshall Faulk, who Pittsnogled the Mountaineers all by himself.



Virginia Tech hopes for a similar Tobacco Road reversal this week.  Earlier this season, the Hokies nearly escaped Durham with a stunning upset.  However, Sean Dockery’s miracle buzzer-beater gave the Blue Devils a 77-75 victory.  After tonight’s rematch in Blacksburg, Virginia Tech makes its second trip to Tobacco Road on Saturday, taking on Wake Forest.  If the Hokies replicate Seton Hall’s 71-point improvement, they will defeat the Demon Deacons by 69 points.



As for Seton Hall, they will travel to Syracuse on Sunday to take on Jim Boeheim’s 24th-ranked team.  The Pirates are excited about playing consecutive road games against ranked opponents.  It gives them two opportunities to get out of New Jersey.