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2017-18 Big East Season: Seton Hall Pirates

There are higher expectations at Seton Hall that haven’t been seen in over two decades. Can the Pirates live up to that hype? They have the talent to do so.

NCAA Basketball: Seton Hall at Creighton Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

SETON HALL PIRATES SEASON PREVIEW

Coach

Kevin Willard (128-102, 52-74 vs. Big East opponents)

Kevin Willard will be entering his eighth year at the helm for the Pirates. Over his time with the program, Willard has accumulated a record of 128-102 during his time in South Orange.

Willard came to a Seton Hall program that was not in the best shape in 2010-11, after Bobby Gonzalez had been fired. Willard’s first few seasons showed some glimpses of promise with an NIT appearance in his second season. But the major theme during his early tenure with the Hall was all too familiar for Seton Hall fans. Just like his head coaching predecessor with the program, inconsistency and failure to make an NCAA Tournament mired him.

Things changed with Seton Hall’s 2014 stellar recruiting class was headlined by 5-star guard Isaiah Whitehead and 4-star forward Angel Delgado, with the addition of Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez and Ismael Sanogo. Ultimately, that 2014-15 season ended up a disappointment, as team chemistry issues derailed the season.

Kevin however ended up changing the program as the Pirates won the Big East Tournament championship in 2016, and returned to the NCAA Tournament. Last season, the Pirates made their first back-to-back appearance in the tourney since 1993 and 1994. The better news for Kevin Willard is that the 2017-18 team promises to be his best team yet.


Last Season at a Glance

21-12; T-3rd in Big East; lost to Villanova Wildcats in Big East Tournament semifinals; lost to Arkansas Razorbacks in Round of 64 of NCAA Tournament


DEPARTURES FROM 2016-17

Player Departure Reason 2016 Stats/Notes
Madison Jones Graduation 5.8 PPG, 3.2 APG, Started 31 Games in 2016-17
Jevon Thomas Transfer 0.7 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 0.8 APG in 10 Games in 2016-17
Dalton Soffer Transfer 0.6 PPG, 0.2 RPG in 10 Games in 2016-17
Amarveer Singh Transfer 1.3 PPG, 1.6 RPG in 9 Games in 2016-17
Myles Carter Transfer 0.8 PPG, 1.4 RPG in 5 Gamesin 2016-17

RETURNEES FROM 2016-17

Player Year 2016 Stats/Notes
Angel Delgado Sr. 15.2 PPG, 13.1 RPG, 2017 Preseason All-Big East 1st Team
Khadeen Carrington Sr. 17.1 PPG, .382 3PT FG%, 2017 Preseason All-Big East 1st Team
Desi Rodriguez Sr. 15.7 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2017 Preseason All-Big East Honorable Mention
Ismael Sanogo Sr. 3.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 0.6 BPG, Started 19 Games in 2016-17
Myles Powell So. 10.7 PPG, 2.2 RPG, Started 2 Games in 2016-17
Michael Nzei Jr. 4.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG, Started 14 Games in 2016-17
Eron Gordon So. 1.3 PPG, 0.8 RPG, Averaged 4.1 MPG in 2016-17

ADDITIONS FOR 2017-18

Player 247Sports Composite Rankings
Quincy McKnight Transfer from Sacred Heart
Jordan Walker 3-Star, 177th Ovr, 35th Pos (PG), 3rd St (New Jersey)
Myles Cale 4-Star, 91st Ovr, 18th Pos (SG), 1st St (New Jersey)
Sandro Mamukelashvili 3-Star, 199th Ovr, 49th Pos (PF), 19th St (Florida)
Romaro Gill JUCO Transfer from Vincennes University

What Happened Last Year

Seton Hall successfully progressed off their 2015-16 season as they returned to the NCAA Tournament. The Pirates started the season off winning a couple of games against lesser opponents, and then defeated the Iowa Hawkeyes on the road in the Gavitt games.

The Hall headed then proceeded down to Florida for the AdvoCare Invitational, where they dropped two games against Florid and Stanford while picking up one victory against Quinnipiac. The Hall then went on to defeat California in Hawaii and beat then 16th-ranked South Carolina at MSG in the Under Armour Reunion. The Hall finished with a respectable 9-3 record in nonconference play.

Once Big East play began, things looked foggy for Kevin Willard’s squad. The which got off to a 3-6 start in conference, which included a 29-point loss to Villanova. After that, they lived life on the bubble until they went on a four-game win streak to conclude the season. The stretch included wins over Xavier and Butler, which helped earn them an NCAA tournament berth once again.

The Pirates fell in heartbreaking fashion to Villanova 55-53 in the Big East Tournament semifinals. They then proceeded to lose 77-71 against Arkansas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.


Key Nonconference Matchups

If Seton Hall were to have a perfect storm come together for one of the program’s best seasons in school history, this is it. Along with the talent the Pirates have, throw in their nonconference schedule, and there are many tournament-resume building opportunities to gain a high seed come March.

The Hall’s first big matchup will be the third game of the season. They take on Indiana in the Gavitt Games. New head coach Archie Miller may be in a slight rebuilding process in his first season in Bloomington, but this is still a big game for the Pirates in a few ways.

First of all Indiana, may not be an NCAA tournament team for the upcoming season, but it still would be an RPI boosting win. Secondly, it will be Seton Hall’s first game against a high-major opponent this season. The Pirates will have a target on their back this year with their high expectations, and this game will be the first test to see how the team deals with these expectations against a feisty Hoosiers team.

The Pirates have a stretch from late November into early December which will really show if this team is as good as its preseason projections state. It begins with the Preseason NIT on Thanksgiving. Seton Hall will take on Rhode Island and then get the winner or loser of Vanderbilt/Virginia.

Following the Preseason NIT, the Pirates will be taking on a potential NCAA tournament team in Texas Tech Red Raiders at MSG. The Hall then takes to the road for their toughest road nonconference game at Louisville. Their last big nonconference game will be on the road against in-state rival Rutgers.

Simply put, Seton Hall has the opportunity to solidify themselves as a Top 5 seed in the NCAA tournament. That is, if they successfully work their way through this nonconference slate and play up to expectations in Big East play.


Reasons for Optimism

1. Veterans: The Pirates are returning three 1,000-point scorers. On the whole, they have four seniors between Carrington, Rodriguez, Delgado and Sanogo. Teams as experienced as Seton Hall are engineered for deep runs into March. Having that many seniors will also help in bringing along the freshman on the team.

2. Star Power: Angel Delgado is a potential All-American. Carrington was named to Preseason All-Big East First Team along with Delgado. Rodriguez has simply been on a tear through Seton Hall’s three preseason exhibitions. If Desi can play like that on a consistent basis, this team has three legitimate stars with a strong supporting cast.

3. Depth: This by far is Kevin Willard’s deepest team since he has arrived in South Orange. The bench is very young, but there’s a lot to like. In Seton Hall’s last two successful seasons, they were six or seven deep. This year, they will be eight or nine deep, which can help them in foul trouble and give other teams different looks by changing things up.

Reasons for Pessimism

1. Distractions: Seton Hall has not been ranked in the AP Preseason top 25 poll since 2000. This will be interesting to see how things play out, with lots of expectations riding on this team. The biggest challenge for the seniors on this team will be to make sure they don’t let expectations get ahead of themselves. Especially with the freshman on the team. Last year, Seton Hall was the hunter, seeking out wins over ranked Big East teams. This year, as a Top 25 team, they will get every team’s best effort.

2. Point Guard: Khadeen Carrington has played shooting guard his whole career. Now, he will be looked upon to be the team’s point guard for his senior year. Carrington’s fatal flaw over his career has been his ability to hold onto the ball. However, he has adapted to his new role in the offseason as the on-court leader. It’s time to see if that carries over into the regular season.

3. Free throws/turnovers: These are the two things that keep Seton Hall fans up at night. Historically, they have hurt them very much in the past. Ultimately, closing out close games in the Big East will be dependent on these two categories. So Pirate fans better hope these things improved over the off season.


Best Case Scenario

Angel Delgado is an All-American. Seton Hall wins the Big East and goes very deep into the NCAA tournament come March as a Top 5 seed. IF, that is a big if, everything goes right with this team Seton Hall has a legitimate shot to go to the Final Four, with all of the experience and talent coming back.

Worst Case Scenario

Khadeen Carrington does not transition to point guard well. Seton Hall shoots poorly from the free throw line and commits a lot of turnovers. In this situation, there is too much talent on this team to be a bubble team. However, they simply don’t progress off of last season and stay where they were, competing for a 7-10 seed.


Season Outlook

The top four teams in in the Big East are all very competitive this season and it will be a close race. I look for Seton Hall to finish in the top three during the regular season and return to the Big East Championship game against Villanova for a rematch from two years ago. Barring injuries, this is the year Seton Hall finally makes the Sweet 16 after a very long wait.