If you are looking at this slate and saying to yourself "hey that looks familiar!" it is because the Pirates are playing six of the same teams that they did a year ago. Most of them are home-and-home rematches that will likely favor The Hall or are at home. Let's navigate Seton Hall's nonconference slate.
Nov. 15 vs. Wagner
Seton Hall begins the season with their annual game at Walsh Gymnasium on the South Orange campus. The Pirates never schedule a tough opponent for this game as it is more of an event to show off to the school community what the program has to offer this year before Big East play. This season they scheduled the game as the home opener. Last year, the Pirates beat Maine in this game 72-43. The Seahawks come to town this time and don't worry we are not talking about the two-time defending NFC Champions. Wagner should be an easy contest for the Pirates and the sold out crowd of about 2,500 at Walsh should enjoy a comfortable win.
To make matters worse for the Seahawks, their leading scorer from last year, Marcus Burton, has graduated. However, expect Mike Aaman and a group of sophomores led by Cory Henson, Romone Saunders and JoJo Cooper to contribute in this one. The inexperience and lack of talent for Wagner should struggle with the Seton Hall pressure. It should be smooth sailing for the Pirates as they will look to get the season off on the right foot.
Nov. 19 vs. Long Beach State (Neutral)
The Pirates then travel to Charleston, S.C. for the Gildan Charleston Classic where they will take on the 49ers, again not the NFL team, in round one of the tournament. Seton Hall won the Maui Invitational last season, but the field in this tournament is much more difficult. Virginia, Oklahoma State and Ole Miss will be playing so to win this tournament the Pirates will have to pull off at least one upset.
The Niners will not be afraid of the challenge that facing a Big East team can provide. Long Beach defeated both Xavier and Kansas State in nonconference games last season so do not be shocked if they give the Pirates a game. Long Beach has a number of veterans who can make an impact in this game, but The Hall will be heavily favored in this one. The winner of this game will play the winner of the Virginia/Bradley in the next round.
Nov. 28 vs. Georgia
Seton Hall would like to forget last year's game against the Bulldogs down in Athens and will be in search of revenge in Newark in the rematch. Georgia jumped on the rattled Pirates early and did not take their foot off the gas pedal in a 65-47 victory. Kenny Gaines led all scorers with 15 in last year's game and is back for his senior season. For the Pirates, it was remembered as the game when Isaiah Whitehead suffered his stress fracture injury.
The Bulldogs are really tough to beat at home, but this game will be at The Rock. Georgia went 8-4 away from Athens last season, which is solid, but that team had more experience. With the losses of Marcus Thornton and Nemanja Djurisic, the Dawgs will need to fill the scoring void in order to win this game. Defense will play a key role for the Bulldogs once again and if they hold the Pirates to under 60 points SHU could be in trouble. Many players on this team also played in a game last season that saw Georgia almost upset #1 and undefeated Kentucky. This one is anything but easy for the blue and white.
Dec. 2 at George Washington
Last year's Seton Hall-GW game was a grinder and the Pirates had to fight to the finish, but did secure the 58-54 win. One big story line for this game is Jaren Sina's transfer from the Pirates to the Colonials. The only downside for fans is that he is not eligible to play in the game, but just having him on the sideline should add a little bit more to this game.
GW has plenty of talent led by the senior trio of Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen and Joe McDonald who carried much of the scoring load a year ago. The Colonials' defense has always be known to be solid and last year was no exception. George Washington held their opponents under 70 points in 28 of their 35 games last season. Expect this to be a low scoring, defensive affair once again. The Colonials are also difficult to beat in the nation's capital and to top it all off they want revenge. The Pirates will have a tough time getting out of DC with a win.
Dec. 5 at Rutgers
The battle for the Garden State Hardwood Classic title shifts to The RAC for the second edition of the revamped, New Jersey civil war. Seton Hall rolled over Rutgers last season 81-54 behind Whitehead's stellar performance. The Scarlet Knights are still not a top basketball program and likely will not be for a while because of their attempt to transition to being a football powerhouse in the Big 10.
Seton Hall will be heavily favored in Piscataway, but Rutgers will likely throw the kitchen sink at the Pirates in an effort to win the trophy for the first time. Games between these rivals at The RAC have included extracurricular activities in the past so be sure to look out for some hard fouls.
Dec. 10 vs. Troy
Seton Hall then begins a two-game stretch where the competition dips quite a bit and that makes sense. The previous three contests will be emotionally draining and tough to win so scheduling some easier games may not help the resume, but should improve the team's confidence.
Players to watch for Troy include Wesley Person and John Walton III who provided the Trojans with some scoring last season. If the Pirates struggle early in the season they should be able to bounce back with a win over Troy.
Dec. 13 vs. Saint Peter's
The Peacocks stunned Seton Hall in overtime a few years back, but were not able to stay competitive in the meeting last season. Marvin Dominique and Desi Washington, who have hurt the Pirates in the past, are gone so The Hall should be excited about that. Saint Peter's still has Quadir Welton and Trevis Wyche, but they are both coming off of average seasons.
This game should be an open and shut case with the Pirates coming out on top. The one way that Saint Peter's hangs around is with three-point shooting. When they make a good amount of their threes they can make any opponent uneasy.
Dec. 19 vs. Wichita State
Part of the theme for Seton Hall's nonconference schedule seems to be second chances at home against teams that beat them on the road last season. This game is the perfect example. The Shockers took care of The Hall in Wichita last time and look to silence the crowd at the Prudential Center in the rematch. Wichita State returns Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet who had big games in last year's win. WSU has NCAA and Final Four experience on their roster so this will be the test that measures where the Pirates are at this point of the coming season.
Whitehead was the only player to make a dent in the game last year that is returning for the rematch. Expect him to be a huge factor once again. The crowd is going to have to play a huge role and Seton Hall will have to shoot well from the field while keeping the Shocker's veterans at bay. Once again, this will likely be one of the toughest game on the nonconference schedule for SHU.
Dec. 22 vs. South Florida
On the road last season, the Pirates took care of USF 89-69 behind great three-point shooting and solid play from Angel Delgado in the paint. The Bulls will look to return the favor in Newark led by Chris Perry and Troy Holston Jr. who can provide enough offense in the game to make it interesting. USF has struggled in the American Athletic Conference and will most likely have trouble keeping Delgado off of the boards once again.
It is going to take an incredible effort for the Bulls to pull this off after they were beaten easily by this same team on their home court a year ago.
Seton Hall's core of sophomores with a mix of veteran transfers should be able to navigate through this slate, but expect a few bumps in the road. The Pirates will likely struggle in the road game at George Washington and will have trouble fending off Georgia and Wichita State at home. That three game stretch against Georgia, Rutgers and George Washington will be tough for the Pirates because so much emotion will be invested into those games.
Also factor in that if Seton Hall beats Long Beach State they will play Virginia barring a massive upset by Bradley. My prediction is that the Pirates will go 7-3 in the 10 nonconference games that they will play with the losses coming against Virginia, if they get to that game, Wichita State and at George Washington. That is the middle ground. If the Pirates exceed or do not live up to that record it will set the tone for how well they will play in the Big East. Seton Hall has many opportunities to beat good teams and if they take advantage the NCAA Tournament could be in their future.