Louisville tips off Big East season by hosting Seton Hall

Seton Hall Pirates at Louisville Cardinals, KFC Yum! Center, Louisville,  KY
Wednesday, January 5, 2011, 7:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPNU
Opening Line: Louisville -11
Current Line: Louisville -10
Opening Total: 138.5
Current Total: 140.5
Money Line: Louisville -550 / Seton Hall +450

Louisville Seton Hall College Basketball Preview
Seton Hall has struggled offensively this season without leading scorer Jeremy Hazell

The Seton Hall Pirates (7-7, 1-1 Big East) will try to beat the Louisville Cardinals (11-2, 0-0) for the third time in four meetings when they square off on Wednesday in a Big East clash.   However, the Pirates are still dealing with the loss of leading scorer Jeremy Hazell for perhaps the entire season and will continue to rely on big man Herb Pope against the Cardinals (-10).

Hazell not only broke his wrist in November but was then shot in the armpit in a robbery attempt on Christmas night.  He was leading Seton Hall in scoring at 24 points per game and shooting, but Pope (8.6 points per game, 8.4 rebounds per game) figures to play a bigger role both literally and figuratively against the Cardinals since forward Rakeem Buckles (8.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg) is out until at least February with a broken finger.

Whether Pope’s advantage inside will be enough to give the Pirates an edge remains to be seen though.  Louisville figures to have an explosive offensive lineup on the floor even without Buckles, as Kyle Kuric (7.8 ppg) slides into his spot.  The Cardinals were overmatched in a 78-63 home loss to Kentucky last Friday, as they were outrebounded by a 35-23 margin.

The main problem for Seton Hall is shooting the ball without Hazell, as the team ranks dead last in the Big East at 41.3 percent, including 32.7 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.  Take away Hazell’s 11-of-17 shooting from 3-point range, and that number dips to 30.5 percent.

The Pirates are coming off a 70-53 loss at Cincinnati last Friday, making just 15 of 35 shots from the field and getting outrebounded 33-23.  Keon Lawrence led the way with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field and 4-of-5 from the free-throw line.  Pope made only 1 of 7 shots from the field and had a season-low four rebounds as the Bearcats improved to 14-0.

One thing you can count on so far with Seton Hall is low-scoring games.  The UNDER is 8-1 in the team’s lined games, and Cincinnati reached 70 points against the Pirates for just the third time this season and first time since a 104-79 victory at Massachusetts on December 11.

Louisville will put those numbers to the test after averaging 109 points in two games prior to losing to the Wildcats.  This will be the Big East opener for the Cardinals, who visit South Florida and Villanova over the next week.  They have failed to cover the last three meetings with the Pirates along with four of the past five.

Our college basketball handicappers are red hot as Big East play starts around the country. Don’t miss out on any more winners this season.

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