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Big East 2015-16 Season Preview: Seton Hall Pirates

A talented group of sophomores look to lead Seton Hall to an NCAA Tournament appearance for the first time in almost a decade. Here is a look at The Hall as they try to put last season in the rearview mirror.

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

2014-15 Record

16-15 (6-12 BIG EAST); lost to Marquette 78-56 in the first round of the Big East Tournament.


This is Kevin Willard's sixth season at the helm of Seton Hall. The Pirates have essentially been a .500 team under Willard who is 82-81 as the head coach entering this season. Before that, Willard went 45-49 at Iona and led the Gaels to one season of above .500 basketball. Through five seasons under Willard, The Hall are 29-58 against Big East opponents and 12-24 against conference opponents in the new 10-team, conference format. Seton Hall has only finished above .500 once under Willard back in 2012 and has not made the NCAA Tournament since 2006.

Key Returnees

Isaiah Whitehead (12.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.4 SPG, .367 FG %, .346 3P %, .746 FT %) (All-Big East Freshman)

Angel Delgado (9.3 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 1.3 BPG, .555 FG %, .414 FT %) (BIG EAST Rookie of the Year) (All-Big East Freshman)

Khadeen Carrington (8.8 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.8 APG, .383 FG %, .752 FT %, .283 3P %)

Desi Rodriguez (5.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG, .446 FG %, .602 FT %)

Ismael Sanogo (0.5 PPG, 1.0 RPG, .250 FG %, .333 FT %)

Michael Nzei (Did not play last season due to ineligibility)

Key Departures

Sterling Gibbs (Transferred to Connecticut)

Jaren Sina (Transferred to George Washington)

Brandon Mobley (Graduation)

Notable Additions

Derrick Gordon (Transferred from Massachusetts)

Braeden Anderson (Transferred from Fresno State)

Amarveer Singh (4* Recruit, New York, N.Y.)

Myles Carter (3* Recruit, Chicago, Ill.)

Dalton Soffer (2* Recruit, San Diego, Calif.)

Get to Know the Incoming Pirates: Dalton Soffer Amarveer Singh Myles Carter

Last season at a glance

The Pirates in 2014 had come off of a tough first season in the new Big East. However, with a nationally-ranked recruiting class coming in, the season was highly anticipated and expectations were the highest that they had been in recent memory.

Last season was supposed to be the year that The Hall figured out how to integrate the new talent with the veterans that had returned. The Pirates would get off to a dream 12-2 start, despite losing Isaiah Whitehead to injury, which included wins over ranked St. John's and Villanova teams.

However, the Pirates would only win four of their remaining 17 games and record just two victories after Whitehead returned.

Angel Delgado had a freshman campaign to remember as he almost averaged a double-double and was named the Big East Rookie of the Year.

Seton Hall was led offensively by Sterling Gibbs, whose 16.3 points per game and 43 percent 3-point shooting marks led him to being named to the All-Big East Second Team. Whitehead and Delgado would be named to the All-Big East Rookie team after solid years, and Khadeen Carrington would also play an important role as a ball-handler, scorer and defender.

Carrington made critical baskets in wins over Villanova, Marquette and Creighton.

After such a promising start, the Pirates found themselves exactly where they were the year before. They finished 6-12 in the conference and missed the NIT.

With Jaren Sina leaving during the season and Gibbs leaving at the end of it, a dream season for the Pirates turned into a nightmare. Seton Hall has still not made the NCAA Tournament since 2006 and the NIT since 2012.

Three reasons for optimism

1. The core of sophomores are back: Whitehead, Delgado, Carrington and Rodriguez are a year older, a year wiser and look to have improved over the offseason. The Pirates should be excited about the development of Whitehead who has looked sharp on the offensive end in the early going. He will also be relied on to get his teammates involved and looks as mature as ever. Whitehead spent time with NBA MVP Stephen Curry at his camp and NBA star Lance Stephenson. That experience looks to have helped him to develop into an even better player.

Delgado played for the Dominican Republic in the Pan-American Games and will look to make a run at the All-Conference team. Carrington and Rodriguez will likely have even more of an impact this season as they look to develop a perimeter game. This group is really talented and only getting better.

2. Veteran transfers: Derrick Gordon, who has played in the NCAA Tournament for Massachusetts, is a New Jersey native from Plainfield and returns home to finish his college basketball career.

The defense that Gordon can provide Seton Hall could be invaluable. Leadership and experience are something that this Pirate team was lacking and Gordon helps to remedy that.

Braeden Anderson's big body could help clog the lane and grab rebounds. When Delgado is in foul trouble, Seton Hall can use their newly found frontcourt depth that Anderson provides.

3. Unexpected help: The Pirates could get major contributions from three players who were not even on the radar of too many last season. Seton Hall signed Veer Singh who reclassified to be in the 2015 recruiting class. The 6-foot-7 Singh has the size to be a small forward, the shooting ability of a guard and the talent to make a real impact on this team.

Last season, Michael Nzei was ineligible and could now be another player that contributes to the rebounding effort. His size and athleticism provides The Hall with another big body that could help on both sides of the ball. Nzei started in the exhibition win over Baruch so look for him to get some playing time right away.

One player that many, including Willard, believe improved the most during the offseason was sophomore Ismael Sanogo. After not seeing much of the floor last season, Sanogo could make a mark on this year's team. His size, athleticism and strength are a great combination that could give the Pirates rebounding, scoring and defense that is desperately needed.

Three reasons for pessimism

1. Perimeter Defense: The Pirates need to improve their defense against three pointers. It hurt them last season and it has already hurt them this year in the exhibition game against Baruch where The Hall surrendered 12 3-pointers to the Bearcats. In a closed-door scrimmage against Penn State, Seton Hall allowed the Nittany Lions to also drop 12 3-pointers according to Adam Zagoria.

Seton Hall needs to cut the amount of open looks they give up in general, but especially from beyond the arc. If the Pirates force teams to beat them in the paint instead, they will have a better chance to win. When teams are raining threes on Seton Hall, more times than not they will be in some trouble.

2. Shot Selection: Offensively, there are stretches when the Pirates would take questionable shots. Either the offense got stagnant, which led to forced shots or players would try to do too much with the basketball. Players tried to fight through a double team or attempted to drive past two frontcourt players on the way to the basket.

All of that led to Seton Hall having an effective field goal percentage of 48.2, which ranked 203rd in the nation last season according to The offense needs to include good ball movement and provide more open looks for the top scorers. If the trend of poor overall shooting continues, the Pirates could struggle to find offense.

3. Lack of Consistency: Seton Hall basketball's second half of last season was defined by one word: inconsistency.

The Pirates struggled to play solid for a full 40 minutes in many of the games they played. During the majority of the conference slate, the Pirates would fall behind early and have to work to fight back.

For example, against Creighton, Marquette and Georgetown at home last season, the Pirates fell behind by double digits early. They would come back to tie or take the lead in two of those games.

However, they went 1-2 in those three home contests. By the time they had caught up to their opponents, they were ready to step on the gas pedal and finish the job.

At that point, Seton Hall was too fatigued to make another run. The Pirates need to establish consistency and get off to fast starts in order to win games.

Best Case Scenario

Seton Hall's best case scenario is that the trio of Whitehead, Carrington and Delgado have great seasons while receiving contributions from veterans and freshman on the roster too. If all goes well, the Pirates could have a formidable offense that could challenge top teams in the conference and possibly the country. The Hall has the talent to be a Top 5 team in the conference. However, to finish in the top half, they will need to get back to the beautiful ball movement, sharp shooting and solid defense we saw during the 12-2 start last season.

The Pirates should have another solid record after navigating the nonconference slate and could have some impressive wins by the time Big East play gets under way. Seton Hall's ceiling is a 10-8 conference record. Coach Willard's team has a number of great opportunities to pick up quality wins and the three straight home games in February could really help the cause. The Pirates would then have to win a game or two in the Big East Tournament in order to have a chance to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. That is the goal and the best case scenario is that they meet it and go dancing in 2016.

Worst Case Scenario

The two "I" words that every Seton Hall fan hates to hear are injuries and inconsistency. If both of those factors hurt the Pirates this season it will not be pretty to watch. We saw how the season unfolded when Whitehead dealt with the stress fracture in his foot. That, coupled with the fact that Seton Hall got off to slow starts in many games late in the season, made it difficult to sustain the great start. We could see a repeat of last season if the Pirates are not able to start games stronger. Defensively, in this worst case scenario, Seton Hall will continue to struggle guarding the three point shot and will not have improved from last year's late season debacle.

Part of this scenario includes the recruits. Veer Singh is already dealing with a wrist injury that, according to Jon Rothstein of CBS, will probably keep him out of the opener against Dartmouth. We still have not seen much from Chicago recruit Myles Carter either and some believe he might not play much to start the season. If they are not impactful it could take a toll on Seton Hall's goal of playing postseason basketball.

2015-16 Outlook

Despite all of the controversy and poor play that defined last year's team, Seton Hall has a chance to make amends. Many of the talented players have returned and reinforcements were brought in through transfers and recruiting to build a solid team. To no one's surprise, the Pirates were picked to finish seventh in the conference and are nowhere near the Associated Press and USA TODAY polls. ranks The Hall No. 82 in the nation at the start of the season.

The Pirates lost three of their top six scorers from last season and will need the younger players to pick up the slack. Seton Hall made 213 3-pointers and only 54 of those made shots were taken by players currently on the roster. The Hall took 609 3-point shots last year and only 179 of them were taken by players on this year's team.

Last year's team played really well when Gibbs and Sina were making their 3-point looks so a number of players will have to make up for those losses.

Seton Hall has players on the team that can help fans forget about last year's team quickly. The addition of Derrick Gordon could prove to be a season changing acquisition for the Pirates. Gordon provides tournament experience, defense and leadership that is needed in an inexperienced Seton Hall locker room.

The size and strength of the 6-foot-9, 240 pound Braeden Anderson could make life difficult for opponents who drive into the paint. In recruiting, the Pirates brought in a talented shooter with length in Veer Singh.

Despite losing talent and experience, Seton Hall may have brought in the right replacements to move in the right direction.

The goal for Coach Willard and Seton Hall is plain and simple: get back to the NCAA Tournament.

We also cannot stress enough how important it is to have the trio of Whitehead, Delgado and Carrington back in the fold for another season. Whitehead still made the All-Big East Rookie team after battling back from an injury and struggling at times offensively.

Delgado was the Big East Rookie of Year and the best freshman rebounder in the nation last season. Carrington's ability to slash coupled with a developing jump shot make him lethal offensively. The Pirates core of talent is getting better, which is good news for the program.

The "X-Factor" on this team is sophomore Desi Rodriguez who is still trying to figure out where he fits on the basketball court. We saw some flashes of athleticism and brilliance from Rodriguez last season. Many of those great plays came off of Whitehead passes.

When the Lincoln High School teammates play together it can be fun to watch because they are always on the same page. If Rodriguez can develop an outside shot, he could help the Pirates take the next step this season.

Two players that were forgotten by many on the roster last season were Nzei and Sanogo, but they could help Seton Hall to succeed this year. Both of them are big, athletic and can rebound. Sanogo led the Pirates with 11 rebounds in the exhibition win over Baruch and Nzei pitched in as well with seven boards. Both players did not see the floor last year and will now have significant playing time.

Seton Hall has the talent to surprise the Big East and the nation this season, but that is dependent on consistency, improvement and many other factors. The goal for Coach Willard and Seton Hall is plain and simple: get back to the NCAA Tournament. If this team finds consistency on both ends of the floor and improves defensively, they could find themselves in the conversation just like that season. It will come down to whether or not Seton Hall can sustain great play throughout an entire season.

Ultimately that will determine their fate.