As the Seton Hall Pirates navigate through the back end of their nonconference schedule, they face many road tests including games at Wichita State Shockers and South Florida Bulls. After they battle the Bulls, The Hall takes on one of the top SEC teams from a year ago -- the Georgia Bulldogs -- in Athens just three days later.
Georgia’s 2013-14 campaign ended with a second round loss to Louisiana Tech in the NIT after a third place finish in the SEC. This year, they have added power forward Yante Maten and center Fred Iduwe in recruiting to bolster their frontcourt for a team that ranked 63rd in the nation in rebounding a year ago.
It helps that the Bulldogs are not losing any of their main contributors from a season ago. This includes leading scorers Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann, who both averaged roughly 13 points per game last season.
In this matchup, Georgia can really exploit the lack of experience for Seton Hall in the frontcourt. With The Hall likely starting freshmen like power forwards Angel Delgado and Michael Nzei along with center Cheir Ajou, controlling the boards on both ends will be a key in this game that Georgia could take advantage of.
For the Pirates, defense has to worrisome after only being ranked 169th overall last year, coupled with the new crop coming in that could be an issue with a loud crowd. If they are not able to communicate well early on the defensive end they might fall behind early. Until they find an identity on defense, and as a team in general, that will be a problem.
Both teams have a player that could really shine in this game in the backcourt. For Georgia, Mann will be player they look to get most of the touches offensively, but will they be able to really take advantage of the freshman who will be used to guarding college players at this point in the season. Seton Hall will likely turn to freshmen shoot guard Isaiah Whitehead to have a big game on the road against a loud and sometimes obnoxious SEC crowd.
That leads into the next factor: Georgia’s home court advantage. In games played at Stegeman Coliseum last year, the Dawgs more than defended their home court with a 14-2 record. Seton Hall last season was 4-7 on the road including notable wins over the Georgetown Hoyas, Xavier Musketeers and Providence Friars. So, the Pirate veterans on this team have been battle tested.
Something will have to give.
One of the interesting factors to look at in this game will be youth versus experience. The Bulldogs bring back most of their team, while the Pirates will have an entirely different look from a year ago. By the time these two teams play, it might not be as big of a concern because by December 21, I expect The Hall to have found themselves. But it could be a talking point.
Bulldogs head coach Mark Fox received a two-year extension because of the job he did last year and now that the team is even better than a year ago, expect the Pirates to battle with the Bulldogs all the way to the end in this one. However, because of the better overall young talent, and the advantage that gives a team in college basketball, the slight edge will go to the road team as it looks right now.