Niagara (0-0) at Seton Hall (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 9, 6 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Prudential Center (18,711) -- Newark, New Jersey. Television: FS2. Home Record: Niagara 0-0, Seton Hall 0-0. Away Record: Niagara 0-0, Seton Hall 0-0. Neutral Record: Niagara 0-0, Seton Hall 0-0. Conference Record: Niagara 0-0, Seton Hall 0-0. Series Record: Seton Hall leads, 16-11.
GAMES NOTES: On Saturday the 2012-13 season gets underway for both the Seton Hall Pirates and the Niagara Purple Eagles, as the two teams meet up for a non-conference contest at the Prudential Center.
The Purple Eagles have long been one of the premier squads in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and last year they returned to that level. After back-to-back losing seasons Niagara posted a 19-14 overall record and won the regular season MAAC title with a mark of 13-5. Niagara also got a bid to the NIT in their 15th season under Joe Mihalich. Mihalich is now gone, taking the job at Hofstra. Even worse for the Purple Eagles, Mihalich took high-powered scoring guards Juan'ya Green and Ameen Tanksley with him to Hempstead. Stepping in as head coach is Chris Casey. Casey has never been a head coach at the Division I level but he has been an assistant at St. John's and Saint Peter's.
As for Seton Hall, a 15-18 record was all it managed last season, a year removed from its first 20-win season in nearly a decade. In his fourth season as head coach, Kevin Willard will now be helping the Pirates navigate their way through the new-look Big East. Regardless of what league they are in the Pirates need to play better against conference rivals than they did last year when they had just three wins in 18 chances. Critical to the team's hopes of ending an NCAA Tournament drought that has gone on for too long (seven years), is the play of swingman Fuquan Edwin, who will challenge for all-conference honors. Edwin is part of a nucleus of returning starters that includes two strong frontcourt players in Eugene Teague and Brandon Mobley.
Though these teams have met 37 times previously it has been quite awhile since the last meeting. That matchup came during the 1990-91 season when Seton Hall earned a 76-61 victory, its 16th against the Purple Eagles.
The Purple Eagles were one of the most top scoring teams in the MAAC a year ago, ranking second in the league in points (73.8 pg) despite shooting a mediocre 42.2 percent from the field. Losing Green (16.5 ppg, 4.9 apg) and Tanksley (11.3 ppg) could seriously impact that offensive production. That is unless leading scorer from last year, Antoine Mason, takes his game to another level. Mason (18.7 ppg) was already a scorer capable of erupting for 20 or even 30 points. He will need to do that on a regular basis this year. Marvin Jordan (8.2 ppg) will be fitting in as the second scoring option. Jordan started in 12 games last year but played the fourth most minutes per game (28.5) on the squad.
Edwin was a a bright spot for a team that didn't have many things to boast about last year. The 6-foot-6 senior led the team in scoring (16.5 ppg), while providing excellent effort on the boards (5.8 rpg). Edwin is also a force on defense, using his length to create turnovers (2.4 spg) and keep the pressure on opposing guards. Second in command was Aaron Cosby (12.6 ppg, 3.0 apg), who also ran the point but he is no longer around. The players tasked with making up for that absence are Texas transfer Sterling Gibbs and heralded recruit Jaren Sina. Tom Maayan (1.8 ppg, 3.1 apg) was also a willing passer, primarily as a reserve player last year. Teague (11.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg) gives the Pirates a solid force in the frontcourt. Teague will be complemented up front by the versatile Mobley. The 6-foot-9 forward can score (9.0 ppg) and rebound (5.5 rpg) and with his size, can stretch the floor with his ability to hit shots from beyond the arc.
This year Seton Hall is without one of their best scorers from a year ago. However, Niagara is without two. Edwin and Mason will be the focuses of the defensive efforts, leaving it up to the supporting cast to make the difference. Teague and Mobley will push the Pirates over the edge in that regard.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Seton Hall 78, Niagara 66
11/09 10:39:10 ET