One of the most difficult tasks in college basketball is to find a player capable of being labelled “underrated” in the ultra-televised Big East conference. If anyone can wear that label, however, it must be Seton Hall point guard Jordan Theodore. He wasn’t an All-Big East First Team selection, and outside of Big East circles, he might not even be a name on the tip of anyone’s tongue when listing some of the best floor generals out there.
Inside the Big East, however, Jordan Theodore is a scary opponent to face.
“He is probably one of the top point guards in America in terms of what he does for a team,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said.
The Pirates finished their season with 20-wins and are sitting firmly on an NCAA-tournament bubble. If they make the field of 68, it will be the school’s first bid to the tournament in six years, and a proud moment for the senior Theodore and his teammates, who have blossomed into a top-24 defensive team this season, according to Ken Pomeroy’s rating system.
Theodore is currently second in the Big East for assists-per-game, with 6.7. Vincent Council of Providence has the statistical edge in that category, but neither Council nor anyone else on Ed Cooley’s squad could keep Theodore at bay. He sliced up the Friars defense in Tuesday night’s Big East Tournament opener, scoring 13 points and dishing out 13 assists, which was just shy of the Big East Tournament’s single-game assist record.
Council managed a respectable 5 assists in the same game.
One night late, the Pirates succumbed to Louisville’s pressure, losing a close one to the Cardinals. Theodore scored 17 points to lead his team in the loss.
Louisville’s goal on Wednesday night was to put the pressure on Theodore, to try and wear him out. They did a good job, but the senior guard isn’t the type to quit easily.
“I just wanted to just leave it all out there for Seton Hall and just go out there and battle,” he told reporters.
The Seton Hall point guard is the quintessential senior leader that coaches always talk about.
“You know, nothing has changed all year long,” Pirates head coach Kevin Willard said. “We’ve been a very good basketball team all year long for two reasons: Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope.
“They’ve led us both on and off the court, and I’ve said it a million times: We can only go as far as these two guys go. When they play that dominating, I don’t think there’s too many people that can beat us.”
With the loss to Louisville, who have advanced to the Big East Tournament final on Saturday, Seton Hall’s NCAA bid, which seemed likely for much of the season, was left in question. A late-season swoon that included back-to-back losses to Rutgers and DePaul endangered their chances and a mid-January loss to Villanova doesn’t help their profile much either.
“It’s really tough,” he said. “For me and Herb at the end of our Seton Hall career, especially just leaving it up to the selection committee on Sunday, we wanted to go out there and just prove a point, and we came up short [on Wednesday], so it’s a tough one.”
Theodore won’t sit around pouting over Seton Hall’s uncertain situation. Instead, he is getting prepared — there will be a next game for the Pirates, even if they don’t know which tournament it will be in.
“I’m just going to get in the gym, get better and just pray. That’s all we can do. That’s all I’m going to do is just get better. I’m not going to watch TV, I’m just going to get better, go to school and live my life.”
Theodore stays calm, cool and collected on the court, which are imperative features of a successful point guard at any level. Without Theodore, the Pirates don’t work as a team. They’d still have Herb Pope, but he can’t do it by himself. Theodore gets his teammates involved and creates opportunities for Pope, Fuquan Edwin and everyone else. His star-power also attracts the attention of defenders, taking some heat off of his teammates.
Theodore is the engine that has been driving the Seton Hall train this season. When he has a great night, they have a great night, and when he struggles, so do the Pirates. If Seton Hall finds its way into the 2012 NCAA tournament, he will be a huge part of the reason why.