When time expired inside of HP field house, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Sunday night Seton Hall fans began to experience the all too familiar feeling of the past, what I call the "Hall ball" phenomenon. Historically the Seton Hall Pirates are very good at getting their fans and the rest of the college basketball world very excited about them, then they figure out a way to throw all of their success and excitement out the window.
Going all the way back to the 2011-12 season with coach Kevin Williard at the helm, the Pirates were a bubble team and had a head of steam heading towards the end of the season coming off of some huge big east wins. But then the last two games of the season were both losses. One was a heartbreaking overtime loss to Rutgers in front of a sold out crowd at the Prudential center, and the last game of the season was an embarrassing 28 point loss to basement big east team Depaul. These two losses brought the Pirates from the right side of the bubble to the wrong side of the bubble, leading them to the NIT. Two seasons ago the Pirates surprised many people with early success by winning the Paradise Island Jam early in the season, then later on in big east play they handed Villanova their first loss of the season. But the Pirates season soon became derailed shortly after that, as the teams locker room imploded with team chemistry issues between star freshmen Isiah Whitehead and upperclassmen Sterling Gibbs, which resulted in key guard Jaren Sina leaving the team in the middleof the season. Last year the Pirates suffered a frustrating loss in non conference play to Long Beach State, the season continued along with some promising wins then the team suffered a disastrous loss at home against a middle of the pack big east team in Creighton. In that game head coach Kevin Williard pulled the stars of the team as he cited there were team chemistry issues which needed to be addressed. After that game 5th year senior Derrick Gordon held a team meeting. That team meeting paid off as the Pirates went on to win the Big East conference championship, then they had a rather disappointing exit in the first round of the NCAA tournament by losing to Gonzaga.
So are the Pirates experiencing the "Hall ball" phenomenon? Seton Hall is off to a 4-2 start with their best win coming against Iowa, whose RPI is a rather weak 192. The Pirates played the Florida Gators who are an SEC contender very tough on Thanksgiving night but fell short. Tonight's 66-52 loss at the hands of PAC-12 bottom feeder Stanford, brings great concern about for Pirate fans. The Pirates got off to a great start, switching on defense not letting Stanford get any three point shots off, with Angel Delgado and Michael Nzei taking care of business on the boards. But then head coach Kevin Williard for reasons unknown, decided to unload his bench and in doing this allowed Stanford back into the game. Stanford did not look back and went on to dominate the rest of the game, the Pirates simply were out hustled, out coached and out played.
It is early in the season but one must question can the Pirates recover? They must win every remaining non conference game left which includes tough match ups with California and South Carolina. There is no question that the Pirates clearly have the talent to be a big east leader, the Pirates are without last years star Isiah Whitehead, but what seems to be missing more is the leader of the team from last year Derrick Gordon. The pirates need someone on the court who is going to take control and compose the team when teams go on big runs on them as Stanford did tonight. Will the leader be guard Khadeen Carrington or transfer 5th year senior Madison Jones? Can coach Kevin Williard bring the pieces together and make another run at the NCAA tournament or will fans be left very disappointed as the Pirates finish yet another season short of expectations? Who will be this years Derrick Gordon?