Work in Sports
Big East should beware of Pirates
By Seth Davis, Sports Illustrated
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. -- Talk about a study in contrasts: a trip through the Holland Tunnel and a Seton Hall basketball practice. As I sat in my rental car for 30 minutes waiting for the privilege of paying my $4 to get back into Manhattan, I thought of calling up the New York Transit Authority and referring them to Pirates coach Tommy Amaker. Because, believe me, after watching his squad in action, I can tell you they will have the Big East on the run this season.
To be sure, the Hall will encounter some early stumbles; its rotation, which is laden with freshmen and sophomores, will take some time to gel and evolve. But, no question, there is enough pure talent here to win a league title and make a run deep into the NCAA tournament. I was, of course, impressed with the two highly touted freshmen, 5-foot-8 point guard Andre Barrett and 6-9 forward Eddie Griffin. The thing that strikes you about Griffin is just how easily the game comes to him -- too easily, perhaps. Griffin did not appear to have a sense of urgency about him during practice, which made me wonder if he has the desire to be the main man for the Pirates this season. If he's too reluctant to step up, that could be a problem.
Amaker will have an inordinate amount of flexibility when it comes to substitutions. In Barrett and 6-0 junior Ty Shine he has two capable floor generals. It's easy to see the two of them playing together along with Griffin and/or 6-4 junior Darius Lane, who led the team in scoring last season. Or, if he wants to play a bigger lineup, Amaker also has two legitimate centers in 6-11 sophomore Samuel Dalembert and 6-10 junior Charles Manga. Dalembert, who also needs to improve his practice habits, is a great shot-blocker but he will probably not be a much better offensive player than he was last year, because he spent the summer recovering from surgery on a chip fracture in his foot. Then again, the last thing this team needs to worry about is where its points are going to come from.
My advice to the rest of the Big East is to pounce on the Pirates early. Come February, this is one team you won't want to face.
Several Sports Illustrated writers are touring college campuses and will file occasional Postcards for CNNSI.com.