2006. My graduating year from eighth grade and freshman year of high school. Topping the Billboard charts were songs like "Laffy Taffy," "Bad Day," "SOS," "Hips Don't Lie," "London Bridge," and the only hit to come from American Idol winner Taylor Hicks, "Do I Make You Proud."
30 Rock was in its infancy. Some of the biggest movies of the year were Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, The Da Vinci Code, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Cars. WrestleMania 22 went down at the Rosemont Horizon and TNA Wrestling was actually still pretty good. I swear that I'm not joking.
The greatest damn college football game ever went down on the fourth day of the year, and the Texas Longhorns were champs by its end. Super Bowl XL happened, though Seahawks fans would like to forget it, while Steeler fans would love to remember it. The Chicago White Sox walked into Opening Day after a lengthy World Series drought, and little did we know that the Blackhawks took a big step towards ending theirs by selecting an 18-year old Winnipeg, Manitoba native by the name of Jonathan Toews.
The Miami Heat celebrated their first-ever championship. So too did the Carolina Hurricanes. The St. Louis Cardinals won their first World Series title in almost a quarter of a century.
The National Champions in basketball? Those Gators from Gainesville. Florida had to get through quite a stretch to get there, and in the Final Four, they beat the Cinderella story of the decade: the George Mason Patriots. On their way to the Final Four, George Mason defeated a slew of college basketball juggernauts. But sandwiched between those juggernauts was a mid-major who, like the Patriots, would make an inspiring run several years later: the Wichita State Shockers.
And who did the Wichita State Shockers face in their first round matchup?
The Seton Hall Pirates.
2006. The last time that the Seton Hall Pirates made the NCAA Tournament. Kelly Whitney's not walking through that door. Nor is Donald Copeland, Jamar Nutter nor Brian Laing. Stan Gaines isn't either.
Instead, walking through the door after a decade of disappointing results is Isaiah Whitehead, who dropped 25 points on the Providence Friars on Thursday night. Trotting through the doorway as well is Khadeen Carrington who chipped in 12 points of his own.
Marching on through is Angel Delgado as well. The Dominican Republic native scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds on the night, eating up the paint with relative ease. Desi Rodriguez, another one of Seton Hall's superb sophomores, grabbed eight boards too as he found a way to contribute along with 11 points to boot.
So perhaps with these performances, and Seton Hall's 70-52 victory over the Friars, the door they've walked through is not the only one they've made headway on. Perhaps the door has opened further for the Pirates to cruise into the field of 68 for the first time since 2006. The Pirates needed a big home victory to pad their resume, and they certainly snatched one on Thursday night at The Rock in Newark, New Jersey.
Three things we learned:
1. The Pirates are a Tourney-caliber team
Like Xavier, the Pirates can beat you in a variety of ways and with a myriad of scorers. Four Seton Hall hoopers scored in double figures Thursday night against Providence, as Whitehead led the charge with 25. But behind him were three who scored in the teens as Rodriguez, Carrington and Delgado added 11, 12 and 14 of their own. They are stout defensively and have racked up some pretty good wins along the way. Seton Hall should be dancing for the first time in 10 years once the NCAA Tournament rolls around at this rate, and they could be a dangerous high-seeded team, too.
2. Seton Hall flashed the ability to dominate on the boards
Another strong point of Thursday night's performance was the Pirates' ability to rebound. They won in the rebounding margin 49-36, a comfortable margin to say the least and most of the boards came on the defensive end. The Pirates outpaced the Friars 39-23 on that end and only trailed by three on the offensive glass. Seton Hall is typically a good offensive rebounding team and a poor defensive rebounding team, so flipping the script is a positive sign to say the very least. And one that should give Pirate fans hope going forward if they want to compete against the big dogs of the yard.
3. Providence's struggles will continue if their role players don't show up
Prior to being called for a flagrant 2, Ben Bentil led the way with 31 points. Kris Dunn was struggling and although Kyron Cartwright had six rebounds and five assists, Providence's role players were almost invisible Thursday night against the Pirates. It's a credit to Seton Hall for shutting them down but they have to get more ouptut from the guys who aren't playing the leading roles. Otherwise, this team could sink relatively early once tournament play rolls around.