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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Saturday / August 18.
  • Gonzo Explains Jeremy Hazell Situation; Dominique Jones & USF Red Hot

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    With his team set to visit Pittsburgh on Saturday in a critical Big East tilt for both teams, Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez spent part of Thursday’s Big East conference call clarifying his decision to pull Jeremy Hazell with four minutes remaining in Tuesday’s 81-71 loss at No. 2 Villanova.

    “There is a lot of misinterpretation, a lot of misinformation. I’m the head coach of this program and I make those decisions—not the athletic director, not the administration, not a prep school coach, not a high school coach. I make the decisions. There’s been a lot of confusion out there and I just want to make sure there is no confusion,” Gonzalez said of the decision to pull Hazell, who had 32 points in the game and is the second-leading scorer in the Big East.

    “I didn’t take Jeremy out just because of shot selection. People think he missed some shots and I yanked him. What needs to be cleared up is Jeremy didn’t run back on defense, which is basically a cardinal sin.”

    “The other thing is you can’t stand outside of the huddle and not join your teammates in the huddle. I don’t want to call a guy out but I want to make it clear that the stuff he did was unacceptable. Those were the reasons why he didn’t go back in the game. It has nothing to do with waving the white flag or giving up.”

    “Going forward, I’ve had a meeting with Jeremy, I’ve talked to him about how he has to understand that given the same situation he has to handle things differently.”

    Seton Hall (12-8, 3-6) visits a Pitt team (16-6, 6-4) coming off back-to-back losses at USF and West Virginia and will be hungry to right the ship. The Pirates beat the Panthers, 64-61, Jan. 24 in Newark.

    The game marks a homecoming of sorts for Seton Hall forward Herb Pope, an Aliquippa, Pa. native who told me he hasn’t been back to his hometown in six months because he’s trying to stay on the right path. Pope was shot five times as a senior in high school in March 2007 during a party in his hometown. He now leads the Big East in rebounds (11.5).

    “The Pitt game is going to be unbelievable for me, first time I get to play Pitt,” Pope said before the teams first met this season. “That’s part of the reason why I transferred back, to have the opportunity to go home and this is the year we play them twice.”

    Gonzalez said he believes five Big East teams — Villanova, Syracuse, Georgetown, West Virginia and probably Pitt — will make the Big Dance. For everyone else, it’s a crapshoot.

    “From six to 12 or 13 [in the Big East] it’s just totally wide open,” Gonzalez said. “We have nine games left. We’ve come close and been on the fence but we have to be able to get over the hump against the elite teams. You’ve got to try to beat the teams you’re supposed to beat, but in this league, who are you supposed to beat?”

    JONES, USF ARE RED HOT

    South Florida coach Stan Heath sometimes calls recruits after games.

    But after Tuesday’s 72-64 upset of No. 7 Georgetown, several recruits called him.

    “I actually got a few phone calls initiated by the recruits,” Heath said. “That was a little subtle change.”

    Those things will happen when your team is the hottest in the Big East.

    The Bulls (15-7, 5-5), who had previously never won back-to-back Big East games, have put together four straight wins, including back-to-back wins over Top 25 teams Pittsburgh and Georgetown.

    During that stretch, USF guard Dominique Jones has averaged 35 points per game.

    Against Georgetown, Jones scored 22 of his 29 points in the second half and added eight rebounds and four assists.

    According to the AP, with his team up by eight points late in the game, Jones walked to the crowd and twice yelled: “Y’all come watch Dominique Jones play!” He flexed his muscles at the final horn and told the local USF radio crew his “heart was beating too fast” to do a postgame interview.

    Forgive the kid his bravado, but his team is on fire.

    “We felt like he was the most unguardable guy we’ve seen this year in terms of one specific guy,” said Seton Hall’s Gonzalez, whose team lost at USF, 76-74 in OT, Jan. 28.

    The Bulls have gone on this run without 6-10 big man Gus Gilchrist, out since December with an ankle sprain. Gilchrist, averaging  18.8 points and 7.4 rebounds, could return Sunday at Notre Dame. 

    Heath said there is a definite “buzz” around Tampa and the campus but that he’s trying to keep his kids focused on the next game, which comes Sunday at Notre Dame.

    “It’s been a lighting bolt for the city of Tampa and our basketball program,” he said. “It’s really created a buzz that we’ve never experienced before.

    “We’re a little bit in uncharted waters. We’re trying to keep our focus because as fast as things have gone in one direction, things can swing around because there’s so many good players and teams in our conference.”

    Still, Heath said he was allowing his team to dream of an NCAA tournament bid.

    “They want to play in the postseason, they want to go to the NCAA tournament,” he said. “It’s something that none of the players have experienced before…I don’t think it’s a bad thing to point to what we want to attain.”

    FREE THROWS

    Some idiot threw a coin at Pitt assistant Tommy Herrion during West Virginia’s win over Pitt Tuesday night in West Virginia. The coin missed Herrion’s eye by a half an inch. It also could have hit a student-athlete. Mounties coach Bob Huggins took the mic and told the crowd it was “stupid” and said fans should point out anyone they saw doing it…Deniz Kilicli, a 6-9 forward from Turkey, had nine points in his debut for West Virginia. Kilicli had to sit out the first 20 games of the season after playing with a professional player in Turkey. He comes to MSG Saturday when WVU faces St. John’s… The Johnnies are coming off Tuesday’s loss at Rutgers that has many Red Storm fans upset with the direction of the program. St. John’s is 12-9, 2-7 in the Big East. “We just didn’t play with the energy we needed to,” Johnnies coach Norm Roberts said…UConn coach Jim Calhoun has missed five straight games with health issues and associate head coach George Blaney said he expects to coach Saturday against DePaul. “I’m assuming I’m coaching Saturday,” he said, adding that there was no timetable on Calhoun’s return.

    (Photos courtesy Seton Hall Athletics & AP)

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.