Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Villanova Wildcats 65 at Seton Hall Pirates 66 (NCAA Basketball, Big East) -February 25, 2013

When I first planned this trip I figured I would have no sports to watch on Monday night in New York as there were no NBA or NHL games in the area. However, when I met up with Gary on Sunday, he mentioned that Seton Hall would be hosting Villanova in Big East basketball action. Despite being a relatively small school, they play at the Prudential Center in Newark, which is easily accessible from downtown Manhattan using the PATH train from the World Trade Center. Another local friend Mike "The King" Casiano decided to join me so after work, we met up and headed over to New Jersey.

Prudential Center

More commonly known as the home of the New Jersey Devils, the Prudential Center was opened in 2007 to replace the aging IZOD Center in the Meadowlands. The Devils moved in immediately while the Nets only came here in 2010 before moving on to Brooklyn this season. The arena is also host to a number of other clubs, including Seton Hall Pirates basketball. I had already visited "The Rock" when the Leafs played the Devils back in 2008, a 3-2 loss that ended John Ferguson's tenure as GM.

With a capacity of over 18,000, the stadium is too big for the average college crowd, which seems to number around 7,500, so the upper bowl is usually blocked off. As such, I didn't do much touring as most concessions were closed and the concourse was quite empty (above). The Seton Hall band used the extra space to set up and serenade entering fans prior to the game, a nice touch (below).

The only other thing I noticed was The Mural, a 200-foot long piece of art by Tom Mosser that highlights local sports figures (below). As game time was approaching (a rather late 9 pm start), we took our seats without doing a full tour, so I'll have to come back for a Devils game in the near future.

The Game

Seton Hall came in with a 2-13 conference record and on a 9-game losing streak, while Villanova, was coming off a big road win at 17th-ranked Marquette on Saturday and had taken the last ten games over Seton Hall.

The story here was the Pirates' 3-point shooting. They went 8-13 from beyond the arc in the first half (and only 1-9 from inside), which allowed them to stay close to a more well-rounded Wildcat squad, who shot 67% from close range as the half ended tied at 32.

The second half was more of the same as Aaron Cosby (#1 leaping above) made three treys early on to keep the Pirates in the contest. After much back and forth, Villanova used a 9-2 run to get a little breathing room, building a 60-55 lead with five minutes to go. Seton Hall pulled with 1 but a Darren Hilliard (#4 in blue above) three pointer and a Mouphtaou Yarou (#13 above) jumper sandwiched around two freebies by Brian Oliver allowed the Wildcats to take a 65-61 lead with just 19 seconds left.

This is when things got crazy. Fuquan Edwin drove to the basket and was fouled, sinking both free throws to make it 65-63. As Villanova inbounded, the Pirates pressed and forced a turnover before the Wildcats could call timeout. Tom Mayaan passed to Edwin who stepped back beyond the arc and drained the shot for the 66-65 lead and a suddenly crazy crowd. It was the Seton Hall's 13th three in just 21 attempts and it won the game as Villanova could not get a good shot on their last possession.

This game may have had a thrilling finish, but it wasn't pretty to watch. There were 37 turnovers and 41 fouls. The best part was Villanova's FT shooting, which was 25-27. Still, that's only 25 points, far less than Seton Hall gained on those 13 three-pointers. If you believe you only need to watch the last two minutes of a basketball game to enjoy it, this battle would do little to disprove that.


Before the game, the King and I signed up for the designated driver program to get our free soda. Every game one person who signs up wins a prize and this time it was the King himself. He seemed quite shocked to see his name (Michael Casiano of course, not the King) up on the scoreboard. The swag was pretty good, including a nice Seton Hall hoodie. Congratulations Mike!

The final shot was #9 on SportsCenter's Top 10 plays on their late broadcast.

What's Wrong with College Basketball

College basketball has so many problems, the most obvious being the five time outs afforded each team along with the four media time outs per half. That 18 stoppages for a 40-minute contest. Add on the 40 or so fouls and you rarely get a full minute of continuous action. The game has no flow and when are you are at the venue and not distracted by commercials or Dick Vitale yelling, it can get very tiring. Of course, no one will ever mention this as college basketball is currently the most hyped sport on ESPN with March Madness just around the corner, but it is true. Two hours and 20 minutes for 40 minutes of game action only serves the TV networks who can sell more ad time; fans as usual have their time wasted.

Another issue is the overuse of the 3-point shot. When it was first introduced, the trey was a novelty and teams used it relatively rarely. But we now have a generation of players that have grown up making this shot so their shooting percentage is sometimes 40% or better, while the 2-point shooting percentage is still around 50%. It doesn't take a math whiz to calculate that once you are shooting better than 33% on threes, it makes sense to shoot from there (assuming the 50% rate from inside the arc). In this game there were 92 FG attempts and 39 were from 3-point land (42%). The three point shot is no longer exciting when it happens all the time and it has changed the college game considerably. Basketball should have balance with an inside game to complement the outside shooting, but as teams rely more and more on perimeter play, the quality of big men will continue to decline.

Finally, these schedules are a bit crazy. Villanova played in Milwaukee Saturday and then Newark on Monday. Do these kids study? Isn't it midterms right now? Oh wait, those are stupid questions, college basketball is not about college, it is about money (of which none goes to those kids). If you are not following the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit against the NCAA, you should. It could change the landscape of college sports and finally ensure the players are treated fairly and not exploited so ruthlessly by the NCAA and ESPN.

Next Up

After 16 straight days watching a game, I'm taking tonight off. The Jets are visiting the Rangers but I have other commitments so I will miss it. I still hope to get into the Knicks and Warriors tomorrow night though, so check back to see if I did.



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