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Conference schedule analysis: Seton Hall Pirates

The Hall faltered down the stretch in conference play last season and will need to be consistent against Big East opponents if they want to be contenders this ear. Here is breakdown of every single game and a prediction.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Seton Hall had a dream start to their conference schedule last season as they defeated two ranked opponents at home. After the Pirates knocked off Villanova they went 4-13 to finish the season. Consistency will be the key to a better result in 2015-16.

Dec. 30 at Marquette

Seton Hall will be the first to go up against the conference’s top recruiting class. The Pirates won in Milwaukee last season, but under different circumstances and against a less talented team. Golden Eagle fans will pack the BMO Bradley Center to get a look at their revamped team so the road environment could become a factor.

The battle between Henry Ellenson and Angel Delgado should be fun to watch in this game as the reigning Big East freshman of the year takes on a player looking to win it this season. It will be a tough way for the Pirates to start off the season as they will look to crash the Marquette party in the opener.  

Jan. 2 vs. DePaul

Seton Hall and DePaul tip-off this year’s Big East Marathon on the second day of 2016. The Blue Demons swept the Pirates a season ago and will look to win once again at The Rock. Delgado had 19 points and 19 rebounds in the game last season, but it was not enough.

The Blue Demons have a veteran core of juniors and seniors led by Billy Garrett Jr., Myke Henry and Tommy Hamilton IV. However, many have questioned the rehiring of Dave Leitao as head coach. We will see how this comes together for the DePaul, but if Isaiah Whitehead and Delgado are playing well Seton Hall should take this one.

Jan. 6 at Villanova

The Pirates and Wildcats had two memorable meetings last season, but Sterling Gibbs will not be returning to the Big East let alone The Pavilion this season. Villanova drilled 12 threes and defeated The Hall in a rout at home a year ago.

We know Nova will not have Darrun Hilliard, JayVaughn Pinkston and Dylan Ennis, which are huge losses. But Jalen Brunson is a great addition to this team and Villanova will still be tough to defeat at home.

Jan. 9 vs. Creighton

Seton Hall lost nine of their last 10 to finish the season and their only win was against Creighton at home on a game-winning put back by Delgado. James Milliken, Isaiah Zierden and Toby Hegner are among the notables who return for Creighton. However, Coach Greg McDermott lost many seniors including Will Artino, Austin Chatman, Avery Dingman and others.

The Jays had trouble closing out games last season, especially on the road. Seton Hall came back to defeat Creighton twice last season and both games finished with last second, game winning baskets. The Pirates have a chance to start off strong at home once again and they have to take advantage of these early opportunities for wins.

Jan. 16 at Providence

The Pirates played three straight tough road games towards the end of last season and the third was against the Friars. Seton Hall played the Friars tough, but could not finish the game strong. This season for Providence it is the Kris Dunn show, especially early on as new players look to get acclimated. If The Hall can contain the star point guard then they will have a real chance to win either one of these games.

Ben Bentil did have a monster 21 point, 10 rebound game in Newark last season, but scored no points in the home game. Regardless, keeping an eye on him will be essential too. PC is guard dominated so the key to beating them will be to keep their shooting percentage down. Seton Hall did that in the first half on senior night last season, but were blown out by the Friars in the second half and lost. You are going to hear the word consistency being used to describe the Pirates during much of the season. If Seton Hall is consistent they could be in great shape. If they are not, well just look at what happened with last year’s team.

Jan. 20 vs. Villanova

When Seton Hall beat the Wildcats at home last season they became nationally ranked and Pirate program was deemed to be “back.” This will be an important game for the Pirates this season as they look to get a split against Villanova again. This game was so much fun to watch last season and the rematch in Newark expects to be exciting.

Ryan Arcidiacono was a non-factor last season in this game and committed the turnover that sealed the loss so expect him to try and right that wrong. Isaiah Whitehead did not play in this game at all so he will also look to be the difference.

Jan. 23 at Xavier

After the Pirates upset Villanova they traveled to Xavier last season. That same sequence plays out this season. Coach Kevin Willard is certainly one of many who are happy to see Matt Stainbrook leave the Big East. It was clear by the two games last season that the Pirates had trouble keeping the big man from making an impact.

Stainbrook is playing in Germany now so Pirates fans will not have to worry about him, but should be concerned with Xavier’s home record. Since joining the Big East, the Musketeers are 33-8 at the Cintas Center and 13-5 against conference opponents. However, one of those five losses did come to Seton Hall and ended a long, home winning streak during the first season of the new Big East.

The Pirates should keep their eyes on Jalen Reynolds in this game and try to shut him down. If this Xavier team have to rely on perimeter shooting they are not as scary.

Jan. 27 vs. St. John’s

After what will be a tough road game in Cincinnati, the Pirates return home to take on a rebuilding Red Storm program. D’Angelo Harrison, Sir’Dominic Pointer and Chris Obekpa are all gone from last year’s NCAA Tournament team so a younger group led by first year head coach Chris Mullin will have to navigate this tough Big East schedule for the first time.

The Pirates defeated an overrated, but ranked St. John’s team at The Rock last season behind a great performance by Gibbs. For Whitehead, he did not play in the home meeting, but was booed constantly when the two teams met in Queens because he spurned the Johnnies to play for The Hall. As always, this game will be hotly contested and important for both teams.

Jan. 30 at Creighton

Creighton plays its home games at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha where they usually draw 18,000-19,000 fans per game and that continued for the most part last season despite the team’s struggles. Seton Hall left Omaha with a win last season and will need to play well against a rebuilding program to pull it off again.

The return of Isaiah Zierden could be huge for the Jays. He was injured early last season after showing an ability to score consistently. The Pirates will have to watch out for him.

Feb. 3 vs. Marquette

At this point of the season, we will know how good the Golden Eagle recruits are and what direction the Pirate program is going in. Marquette knocked off the Pirates at home last season after holding on for dear life. Marquette’s Traci Carter was recruited by Seton Hall so if he struggles do not be surprised if the Pirate faithful let him hear it at The Rock. This begins an important three-game home stand where the Pirates need to play well. The Hall and Georgetown are the only Big East teams that play three straight at home.

Feb. 6 vs. Georgetown

The Pirates battled back from a huge deficit to tie the game against the Hoyas in Newark last season, but Georgetown bounced back in the second half and defeated Seton Hall going away. After that game it all fell apart for Pirates and Jaren Sina would leave the program hours after the final buzzer. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera will look to have his way again with The Hall and if Georgetown’s younger players can develop they could be very scary. The Pirates would be in great shape if they can win this game.

Feb. 10 vs. Butler

Butler has had Seton Hall’s number since joining the Big East. The Bulldogs would be unbeaten against the Pirates if Alex Barlow did not missed a half court heave at the buzzer inside Madison Square Garden. Seton Hall held on to win 51-50 in the first round of the 2014 Big East Tournament.

In last year’s overtime win for Butler in Newark, Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham did it all for the Bulldogs. Without Barlow and Kameron Woods, the Bulldogs will need players like freshman Kelan Martin to help fill the void. Seton Hall will need a strong game from Delgado and solid shooting from guards like Khadeen Carrington and Derrick Gordon to win this game. We will see if the Pirates can end the losing streak to Butler.

Feb. 17 at Georgetown

The Pirates get a week off before embarking on their only real road stretch of the season. Seton Hall starts with this rematch against the Hoyas in DC where they played well last season, but could not win on senior night. Freshman seem to always play better at home than on the road, especially in the Big East. That is why Jessie Govan’s name is worth mentioning here. Georgetown’s prized recruit could be a huge factor so Seton Hall will have to make it tough on him in the paint.

With that in mind, players like Myles Carter and Braeden Anderson will be vital to The Hall’s success. If they provide some offense while defending consistently, the Pirates could surprise a few teams on the road this season.

Feb. 21 at St. John’s

The last time Seton Hall played St. John’s at MSG the current Big East did not exist. It was in January of 2013 and the Johnnies won 71-67. Many games when these two programs have met in Queens or Manhattan have been close, but the Red Storm have always found a way to pull it out in the end.

Seton Hall will get an early taste of the Big East Tournament atmosphere as they look to end their road losing streak against St. John’s. Under Chris Mullin, expect the Red Storm to always play hard regardless of the level of talent on the floor.

Feb. 25 vs. Providence

Dunn and PC ruined senior night for the blue and white last season, but the star point guard will not have as much help with him. However, Dunn’s ability to dish the ball could help to get others on his team involved. Gordon will be guarding Dunn for Seton Hall so he will need to keep the Friar’s star in check. I love Dunn, but feel that Providence could take a step back so Seton Hall definitely has a great chance to win this game.

Feb. 28 vs. Xavier

Whitehead made one of the plays of season against the Musketeers at home when these two last met at The Rock. So far in the Big East, Xavier have not fared well in Newark so the Pirates will look to defeat them once again. This game will be Seton Hall’s senior night for Anderson and Gordon who are entering their first seasons with the Pirates. It may not mean as much to fans as it has in the past and that might take the pressure off of Seton Hall.

Mar. 2 at Butler

Seton Hall has played Butler tough at home despite losing. The games at Butler have not been very competitive, especially in the second half. If the Pirates want to stun Butler and actually get out of there with a win they will need an incredible team shooting performance. It is safe to say that Seton Hall would take a split with the Bulldogs this season.

Mar. 5 at DePaul

One of Seton Hall’s most disappointing defeats, and there were many of them, was the loss to the Blue Demons in Rosemont. The Pirates needed to bounce back after losing two tough games at home, but they would lose again. Seton Hall ends the regular season with two road games and will need to get split. This is the game they need to win if they want to head into the Big East Tournament with confidence.

Prediction

The Pirates have finished 6-12 in the Big East in consecutive seasons and will need to improve on that mark in order to move the program in the right direction. Seton Hall’s goal must be to finish 9-9 in conference play and I think they can get there. Splits with Villanova, Providence and St. John’s will be essential to achieving that goal. The Pirates will also need to sweep the likes of Creighton and DePaul. A three game improvement is certainly possible if the core of sophomores improve and the locker room culture does too.