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History shows that it’s no time to panic about Seton Hall

The Pirates may be in the midst of a tough stretch, but they are no strangers to this scenario.

NCAA Basketball: Seton Hall at Georgetown Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The date was December 3.

Heading into a raucous KFC Yum! Center against the No. 17 Louisville Cardinals as underdogs, the Pirates pulled off the 79-77 upset.

The following week, after a one week absence, the Seton Hall Pirates broke back into the Top 25 at No. 19. Hopes for this Pirates team were at an all-time high.

The date was January 8.

With the release of the newest AP Poll, Seton Hall was ranked 13th, their highest ranking in nearly two decades. Five straight wins after a tough defeat at Rutgers had Pirate fans thinking at least a Sweet 16 berth was in their future.

However, since that date, the Pirates have gone 3-6, and now sit in sixth place in the Big East.

The date is February 14.

It’s Valentines Day, and the Pirates have a date with the prettiest girl in school Wednesday night.

In basketball terms, that would be the Xavier Musketeers, ranked No. 4 in the country and boasting a 15-0 home record while riding an eight-game winning streak.

The Pirates are at 6-6 in Big East play right now, and while the recent stretch of games may seem bad, this team has been here before.

During the 2015-16 season, the Pirates entered the year with low expectations after how the prior season ended. They began Big East play 7-5, however suffered a tough home setback to Butler on February 10.

How did they respond? Once again, the team went 5-1 down the stretch, including knocking off No. 5 Xavier at home on Senior Day. We all know how that season ended, with Isaiah Whitehead leading the charge as Seton Hall captured their first Big East title in 23 years with a win over eventual National Champion, Villanova.

Let’s take it a step forward. Take last year’s team for example, a team with low expectations after Whitehead’s departure. That team began Big East play 3-6, and after 12 league games had a record of 5-7.

How did they fare in their final six games of the regular season? The Pirates went 5-1, including a huge win to close the regular season on the road over No. 13 Butler, a game not many expected Seton Hall to triumph in. Then in the Big East Tournament, if it weren’t for a Josh Hart offensive rebound and putback, the Pirates would have been in their second straight Big East title game, and they likely would have won that game against Creighton.

Now, in 2015-16, over that six game stretch, they averaged 75.3 PPG while giving up 67 PPG for a scoring margin of +8.3. Last season, it was much closer, as the Pirates scored 73.7 PPG while giving up 73.2 PPG (+0.5).

What does this mean? Well, in 2015, they had an offensive star in Isaiah Whitehead who could single-handedly take over a game, as well as a defensive anchor off the bench in Derrick Gordon. In that six game stretch, only twice did a team score more than 67 points.

Last season, the Pirates had to change their approach a bit. Without their dynamic playmaker in the backcourt, the Pirates were forced to adapt. They proved they could play multiple styles of basketball, whether it be an 87-81 run-and-gun win over Creighton, or a 62-59 grind-it-out win over Georgetown. Over the final six games of last season, the Pirates proved they could win in multiple ways.

These past three seasons have paralleled each other, and one thing it shows is how far this senior class has come since arriving in South Orange in the Fall of 2014.

That 2014-2015 season began with much promise, but ended with much sorrow. After a 2-0 start with wins over ranked Villanova and St. John’s teams, the Pirates ended the season 4-12, including going 1-9 in their final 10 games.

The following year, they won the Big East Championship and brought Seton Hall back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 10 years.

Last year, they brought Seton Hall to a second consecutive NCAA Tourney, the first time the program had achieved that since the P.J. Carlesimo took them four straight years from 1991-1994.

And now, there’s this year. These seniors have seen it all, and want nothing more than to deliver Seton Hall its first NCAA Tournament win since 2004.

But they don’t want to stop there.

They want to bring this program back to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2000.

These seniors have instituted an era in Seton Hall basketball, an era in which when people start to count them out, they play as alive as ever.

They counted them out heading into their sophomore season. They won the Big East.

They counted them out after Whitehead declared for the draft. They went 10-8 in league play and went back to the NCAA Tournament.

Now, they sit 6-6 in Big East, and the doubters have arisen from their slumber to beat the Pirates back down into submission.

We’ve seen this act before.

Six games left. Three away, three home. Matchups with Xavier, Villanova, and Butler to name a few.

History shows this is no time to panic. Instead, it shows this is the time the Pirates are about to come into their own.

But if you wish to keep doubting, go ahead. This team feeds off of its doubters. And you will be scratching your head come March wondering how the Pirates got to this point.