The Seton Hall Pirates will enter Big East play with a record of 11-2 and a top-25 ranking the AP Poll.
Good start, right?
That was until that fateful day last Saturday in Piscataway, where the Pirates somehow lost to Rutgers, a team that couldn’t even beat Stony Brook their next time out.
Following that up was the Jordan Walker dilemma, the Ismael Sanogo suspension, and the scuffle with Manhattan on Saturday that resulted in the ejection of Myles Powell.
There’s been good with this team, however. They took down two ranked foes in the same week, beating No. 22 Texas Tech at MSG and No. 17 Louisville on the road. These two wins bumped the Pirates all the way to No. 19 in the rankings, and a win the following week gave them their highest ranking in nearly 20 years at No. 15.
However, heading into Big East play, there’s something off with this team. Something doesn’t feel right, and that needs to change fast. Here’s what the Pirates are hoping to see under the tree come Christmas morning.
#1: Cooler Heads to Prevail
I get the whole “have my brother’s back” mentality, but getting kicked out of a game is not the answer.
Yes, I’m looking at you Myles Powell.
There’s standing up for your teammates, and then there’s doing it to an extent in which you are hurting your team. Thankfully for Seton Hall, they were playing Manhattan, and losing Powell did not doom them. However, the Jaspers outscored the Pirates 35-25 after Powell’s ejection.
I also don’t see it as a good sign that this team is letting a team like Manhattan get under their skin. If they’re talking trash, go beat their faces in on the basketball court and win by 40. That makes more of a statement then getting kicked out of the game and winning by 12.
As for Jordan Walker, he is a frustrated freshman who was able to get back on the court Saturday. Hopefully this is all this kid needs to regain focus, and he certainly has tremendous upside.
It’s still unclear what caused Ismael Sanogo’s suspension, but whatever it was has Kevin Willard very angry.
“You have to act a certain way at this university,” Willard said after the game Saturday. “You have to respect the program, you have to respect the university, and you have to respect your teammates. And when you don’t do those three, that’s a huge issue with me.”
This team needs to snap out of it. We all know they have the skills to compete with the best. The thing that has held them back in recent years has all been between the ears. If they learn to manage that, their Sweet 16 aspirations are realistic.
#2: Bench Production
On Saturday, they scored eight bench points. The talk coming into the season was the depth on this team, and it simply has not been there. The lone bright spot off the bench has been Myles Cale, who has shown flashes of brilliance as a freshman.
Otherwise, the bench has been less than stellar. Sandro Mamukelashvili has been a bit of a disappointment to me, as he is averaging almost as many fouls per game (2.07) as rebounds per game (2.76). We still have to wait and see with Jordan Walker, however his fellow backup guard Eron Gordon looks lost on the floor without playmakers beside him.
Let’s look at some other poor bench games: @ Rutgers: five bench pts, @ LOU: three bench pts, vs URI: six bench pts. This needs to improve.
#3: Khadeen Carrington to Improve at Point Guard
Back in November, I defended the heck out of this dude. He faced a ton of criticism for poor play at the point guard position after just two games, which is totally unfair.
Now, we enter Big East play, and while he hasn’t been an absolute trainwreck, he hasn’t been amazing either. His 1.88 A/TO ratio ranks among the worst in the conference among guards.
His shooting improved this week, as he shot 12-for-18 this week, including 8-for-10 from deep (6-for-6 on Wednesday). His shot was off to start the season, likely due to him having to distribute more. If he can continue this hot shooting, while also being able to effectively distribute the ball, he’ll be able to hold his own at the point guard position.
#4- Rodriguez and Powell to Continue Lethal Scoring
These two have been dynamic in Seton Hall’s backcourt so far this season. Rodriguez (17.9 PPG) and Powell (14.4 PPG) combine to make up 40 percent of Seton Hall’s scoring.
Rodriguez’s athleticism is how he finds open spaces on the court, as he has become one of the best at creating his own shot in the conference. He has been Seton Hall’s best player this year.
Myles Powell has morphed from a catch-and-shoot three-point marksman to an all-around scorer. He can knock down the long-range jumper, but this year he has shown the ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim.
If these two continue their dominance into Big East play, look out for the Pirates.
Can the Pirates put this all together? It needs to start at the top, literally. These players need to have the right mentality, because this week has shown that they may be lacking in that department.
That’s a scary proposition for other Big East teams. Seton Hall undoubtedly has the talent to win this conference, not just at MSG but in the regular season as well. The thing that could be standing in the way of that is the Pirates’ mindset.
They have a couple days off before facing a tough Creighton team to open Big East play.
Enough of the dilly-dallying in non-conference play. These games count, so let’s kick back and see if this Pirates team has what it takes to live up to the hype.