The Pirates from Jersey are coming off a disappointing season heading into the 2014-2015 season. Lower caliber teams align the path to the very end of 2014 leading up to Big East match-ups mid-winter. The story is similar for many teams in the Big East regarding non-conference play, however, this year is no cakewalk for the Pirates. Seton Hall manufactured the majority of their wins last season during this stretch, but they'll be thoroughly challenged throughout this year. There are games on this schedule that will have any Pirate fan making circles in their calendar, as there are power conference teams throughout November and December.
11. Maine (Saturday, December 27th 2014, South Orange, N.J.)
Maine continued to struggle in the America East Conference last year, procuring 4 wins in their conference and 6 wins total. The Black Bears have switched personal more times than desired and will be getting another new head coach in Bob Walsh, who coached at Rhode Island College in the A10 for 10 years. A new face at a challenged program is a necessity for Maine moving forward.
10. Saint Peter’s (Sunday, December 14th 2014, Newark, N.J.)
This game marks a rematch the fans of Seton Hall have attempted to eradicate from their memory. In-state rival Saint Peter’s Peacocks forced the game into overtime on Dec. 14th one year ago and went on to win 83-80 in the contest. While the talent level might not size up evenly, the Pirates will look to avenge their shortcomings one year later.
9. USF (Thursday, December 18th 2014, Tampa, Fla.)
Since leaving the Big East and forming the new America Athletic conference last year, it is no secret that the Bulls struggled to contend, finishing dead last with only 3 conference wins. With only one player averaging over 10 points a game, South Florida’s offensive woes carried throughout the entire season. With the powerhouse teams like Louisville, UConn, and Cincinnati dominating the AAC similarly like they did in the Big East, it would take some massive rebuilding for USF to be granted a seat at the table.
8. Rutgers (Saturday, December 6th 2014, Newark, N.J.)
The Scarlet Knights are the 2nd interstate game the Pirates have scheduled for non-conference play. Struggling to the transition of the newly formed AAC, Rutgers is again on the move to the Big Ten. Winning only 5 games last year in conference play, Rutgers basketball is in no hurry to start winning games. Seton Hall will get another chance to pick up a win at home against a familiar ex-Big East foe.
7. Mount St. Mary’s (Tuesday, December 2nd 2014, Newark, N.J.)
Mount St. Mary’s finished a mere 9-7 in the Northeast Conference games last year. Much to the rest of conference’s surprise, they won their conference tournament outright getting them a bid to the big dance. They lost to fellow 16-seed Albany in the opening round play-in game. Was March a last minute miracle run or something that could be built off of heading into this year?
6. Nevada (Friday, November 21st, St. Thomas, USVI)
Nevada was just outside of the conversation when it came to reputable programs in the under-represented Mountain West Conference last year. Finishing 10-8 in the MWC, the Wolf Pack relied heavily on former guard and current Sacramento King Deonte Burton, who averaged 20 points a night. They open up their U.S. Virgin Island Paradise Jam tournament against Seton Hall.
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5. Clemson/Gardner-Webb (Saturday, November 22nd, St. Thomas, USVI)
Clemson is most likely going to the next opponent if Seton Hall comes out on top in its first game of the Paradise Jam against Nevada. Clemson was right in the mix this year of ACC contention but was denied a bid to the big dance. Clemson was not denied respect, however, receiving a 3 seed in the NIT and running away with 3 solid victories over Georgia State, Illinois, and Belmont to reach the semifinals against SMU. As the first team in the ACC left out, Clemson is hungrier than ever headed into their 2014-2015 season. The recent departure of leading scorer K.J. McDaniels to the 76ers, will challenge Clemson to prove their worth and rebuild into a ACC contender.
Gardner-Webb is a product of North Carolina basketball. While they will never play on the level of the Tobacco Road teams, they are perennially a respected mid-major program. They continue to be competitive in the Big South and they have been selected to the new CIT post-season tournament 2 years ago.
4. Mercer (Sunday, November 16th, Newark, N.J.)
Did anyone know this name before busting everyone’s bracket last year? The Mercer Bears climbed past Duke in the round of 64 back in March with a shocking 78-71 victory. Mercer dominated play in the Atlantic Sun, winning the conference tournament and the regular season title outright. Mercer now shifts it sights to the Southern Conference where they will be challenged by mid-major teams across North Carolina and the south. They didn’t seem to have trouble against future NBA star Jabari Parker when they held him to 14 points and a sub-30 shooting percentage. Some experts may write it off as a flash in the pan, but Seton Hall better come to play when they welcome Mercer to New Jersey their opening game of the season.
3. Georgia (Sunday, December 21st, Athens, Ga.)
College basketball fans say 20+ wins will squeak you into a tournament spot with a solid resume in a power conference. With the SEC holding little big time relevancy outside of Kentucky and Florida, it is hard for a team like Georgia to make big waves. Georgia contended in the NIT last year with missed goals of a NCAA tournament berth. With a very young team returning to the lineup, there is no doubt Georgia will again be a competitor in the SEC and give the Pirates plenty of trouble.
2. George Washington (Saturday, November 29th, Newark, N.J.)
The A-10 engrained themselves all across the 68-team field last year in March. George Washington was one of those teams as a 9-seed. Finishing 3rd in the A-10 with a 11-5 conference record, George Washington are contenders every year for the Atlantic 10 title ,and will be plenty to handle to for the Pirates.
1. Wichita State (Tuesday, December 9th, Wichita, Kan.)
Everyone’s ringer out of Kansas took its first loss all season to Kentucky in the round of 32. The Shockers will invite Seton Hall to the Charles Koch Arena early December. With their top scorer last year Cleanthony Early joining Melo in New York, there are question marks surrounding the Shockers this season. Coming off near-perfect play until the NCAA tournament, disappointment fills the program #1 seed as they exited the big dance much quicker than expected. It will be interesting to see how the team responds in the 2014-2015 season. Seton Hall, among almost every other team Wichita plays this year, will be hyped for a chance to knock off the powerhouse team in the Missouri Valley Conference.
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