After a long offseason that was crueler than it could have been, Seton Hall has started the season off on the right foot, winning its first two games. The Pirates stuffed the boys from Dartmouth into their lockers with an 84-67 victory on opening night, followed by an easy 10-point triumph over Wagner on Sunday afternoon.
There are two things to remember. First, Dartmouth and Wagner are not exactly college basketball juggernauts. Second, Seton Hall played both games in friendly confines, defeating the Big Green at the Prudential Center and Wagner at Walsh Gym.
Now, the Pirates will get a chance to show off a bit on a national stage, as they enter the Charleston Classic for a matchup with Long Beach State, with games against Virginia, Oklahoma State, or Ole Miss potentially on the horizon. But let's focus on Thursday's contest.
Whitehead is the No. 1
Part of the reason Seton Hall had a messy offseason, and a messy 2014-15 season in general, was the seeming inability of Sterling Gibbs and Isaiah Whitehead to coexist. Well, Gibbs is off at Connecticut now, so this is Whitehead's team.
A recruiting coup for head coach Kevin Willard, Whitehead was solid as a rookie, averaging 12 points and 3.5 assists per game. However, his efficiency numbers were not ideal. He had a shooting line of .367/.346/.746, an effective field goal percentage of .440 and a true shooting percentage of .477. In addition, his PER was just 15.7.
Fast forward to the first two games of this year and Whitehead has scored 18 points per game, handed out 11 combined assists and looked the part of the primary ball-handler/scorer/everything. He still isn't shooting that well, making only 35.7 percent of his field goal tries (10-of-28), but his PER is way up (21.3) and he is flirting with .500 in terms of true shooting percentage. The small sample size makes all these numbers less meaningful, but its clear that Whitehead will be leaned on quite a bit. Its up to him to determine if that is a good thing.
Ball Security Issues
Even if they didn't have to sweat either of their victories, the Pirates didn't exactly make them look easy from start to finish. The major reason for that was the their lax handling of the ball. They turned the ball over 43 times combined in the first two games. Let me repeat: 43 TIMES!. That, my friends, is not good. Wagner scored 22 points off of Seton Hall mistakes and Dartmouth put up 15. That is in comparison to the 23 and 14 Seton Hall scored in those games, respectively. Obviously, by forcing 33 turnovers themselves, the Pirates were able to overcome the sloppy play, but the gauntlet that is the college basketball season, especially in the Big East, will not be so forgiving.
Sixth Man of the Week
Derrick Gordon was a great transfer addition for Seton Hall and one of the bright spots of an otherwise tumultuous spring. The former UMass guard has carved out a nice role for himself, although one perhaps not anticipated. Most would have projected Gordon to be a starter alongside Whitehead, but that has not been the case. Instead, Willard has used Gordon as a super sub, playing him 57 total minutes off the bench in the first two games.
Gordon had 14 points and five dimes in 30 minutes as a reserve against Dartmouth. He followed that up with 11 points across 27 minutes against Wagner. He does have more turnovers (7) than assists (6) and he hasn't been great at the foul line (6-of-11). The second part isn't likely to change, as he is a 66.6 percent career shooter from the charity stripe. However, he has a career assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.82.
If Gordon continues to get such a large workload, he may push into the starting lineup, but for now, he seems like an excellent reserve option, helping to flesh out the depth of the roster.