Coming off of a banner year, the Pirates will be looking to advance further into the NCAA tournament after being bounced by Gonzaga in the first round. It will be tough to replace former star Isaiah Whitehead, who is now playing for the Brooklyn Nets, but Seton Hall has the talent to do so. Led by a returning core group and some key newcomers, the Pirates have the ability to not only compete for a Big East title, but a national title as well.
1.A Chip on Their Shoulder
No team wants to exit the NCAA tournament in the first round, especially coming off of a conference title. That was the fate of the Pirates last season, as they took a loss at the hands of Gonzaga. This year’s team will be hungry to not only win another Big East championship, but make a deep tournament run. Ever since Whitehead announced his intentions to enter the NBA draft in May, the Pirates have been almost written off. They went from a potential pre-season top 25 team to a team being picked to finish 7th in the Big East by Bleacher Report. People have been questioning junior guard Khadeen Carrington’s ability to replace Whitehead at point guard. All of these doubts have provided the team with some bulletin board material and come November 11th, the Pirates will be hungry to prove everyone wrong
At times last season, Coach Kevin Willard would shorten up the bench and go with a six or seven-man rotation. This season, Willard will have the luxury of having a bit more depth at his disposal. The Pirates return ten players from last year’s team and retain 4/5’s of their starting lineup from last season. Not only does Seton Hall return ten players, but they add two experienced guards in Wake Forest graduate transfer Madison Jones and Kansas State transfer Jevon Thomas, who will not be eligible until December. They will also add two freshmen guards in Myles Powell and Eron Gordon, who will look to make an instant impact. Combine that with Michael Nzei, Veer Singh, and Myles Carter stepping into expanded roles and the Pirates will have plenty of weapons at their disposal.
The 2013 recruiting class that has essentially changed the program will be entering their junior years and they have only gotten better with age. Carrington steadily improved as a shooter and playmaker last season and will look to be the man offensively with the departure of Whitehead. Forward Desi Rodriguez went from a freshman playing out of position to a threat both ways in his sophomore season. Forward Angel Delgado is back for another season with an improved post game and will look to remain a regular double-double threat. The most improved out of the whole bunch may be Forward Ishmael Sanogo. Sanogo, who is known for his defensive prowess, has reportedly added a jump shot to his game in the summer, which will add a new element to the Pirates offense. Add in the previously mentioned Jones who comes in from Wake Forest and Thomas who comes in from Kansas State and you have two guards who know a thing or two about playing in big games and hostile environments. Seton Hall will not be scared of going on the road and playing anyone, and a lot of that can be attributed the experience of the returning players.
Coach Willard and associate head coach Shaheen Holloway did an excellent job in the 2016 recruiting cycle despite a limited number of scholarships available to them. They added Myles Powell, who is highly regarded as one of the best shooters in the Class of 2016 and Eron Gordon, who is comes in with an extremely refined skillset offensively. Although Madison Jones seems to have the inside track at a starting guard spot as of right now, these two freshmen will be huge for the Pirates as the season progresses. Both Powell, who lost 35 pounds in the offseason, and Gordon have looked sharp in the early stages of practice and will only get better as the season goes on. It would be prudent for one of, if not both of the freshmen to get off to a hot start to help cope with the absence of Jevon Thomas until December. If Powell and Gordon come along as expected, they will be key pieces in what could potentially be a championship team.
5. Shooting and Defense
Shooting and defense have become two staples of the Seton Hall program. Last season, the Pirates shot 44 percent from the field, which was an improvement from the previous season and 34 percent from beyond the arc. Notably, Carrington and Rodriguez became legitimate three point threats last and incoming sharpshooter Myles Powell will help out on the perimeter. Defensively, the Pirates held teams to 40 percent from the field and 31 percent from three, which ranked among the top in the Big East. Led by Angel Delgado down low and scrapper Ishmael Sanogo, the Pirates are in position to be an elite team defensively yet again this season, which can keep them in almost any game against any team. Seton Hall’s elite defense and shooting can provide problems for almost any team in the country and will keep them in contention for a championship.