Coming into the 2015-2016 season, there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding this Seton Hall team. With Brandon Mobley graduating and Sterling Gibbs leaving for the University of Connecticut, there would be some holes to fill to go along with some question marks surrounding the returning players and even Coach Kevin Willard. Would Whitehead and company be able to perform consistently throughout the whole season? Would this finally be the year that Willard could get his team over the hump in Big East play? All of those uncertainties turned into what some would call a magical season for the Pirates. Riding high off of a Big East Tournament Championship, they seemed destined to make some sort of a run. However, it was not to be and the Pirates bowed out in the first round of the tournament to Gonzaga.
There are numerous reasons as to why the Pirates were not able to win a national championship; but the ones that stand out are lack of front court depth, players playing bad at the wrong time and just an overall bad draw in the tournament.
Lack of Front Court Depth
Angel Delgado spent the whole season playing Center for the Pirates and did an admirable job-against most teams. For anyone who has watched Delgado play, it is clear that he is a true Power Forward and not a Center. It would show against top Centers such as Villanova’s Daniel Ochefu, who had 20 points and 18 rebounds in a 72-63 Villanova win over Seton Hall in January and Ben Bentil of Providence, who had 21 points and 9 Rebounds in a loss to the Pirates. Not only was Delgado playing out of position, he had very little help coming behind him off the bench. Braeden Anderson and Rashed Anthony were not very good for the Pirates last season, and when Delgado would wind up in foul trouble, the Pirates were forced to play small ball and teams would pound it inside possession after possession. This would come back to bite the Pirates in the first round of the tournament, when skilled Gonzaga big man Domantas Sabonis had 21 and 14 as the Bulldogs cruised to a 68-52 win. Even if Seton Hall was able to advance past Gonzaga, waiting for them in the next round would be Utah’s Jakob Poeltl, who would have surely given Delgado fits down low just as Sabonis was able to do.
Tough Draw in the Tournament
Looking at the way things panned out in the Midwest Region of the bracket, you could make a case that Seton Hall had the talent to make a run to at least the Sweet 16. However, plenty of things went wrong in that regard. First off, the Pirates were dealt an extremely tough hand by having to travel all the way to Denver to face a tough Gonzaga team, who was ranked #9 in the preseason AP Top 25. Granted things didn’t really work out that way for the Bulldogs throughout the course of the season, they were still an extremely talented group and you could easily make the case that they should not have been an 11 seed; especially with a team like Syracuse receiving a 10 seed based on their regular season credentials. Beating a team like Gonzaga was going to be going to be a tall task no matter what, but that task became even taller when Isaiah Whitehead couldn’t buy a basket throughout the course of the game. He finished 4-24 from the field and 0-10 from beyond the arc- not exactly your typical Isaiah Whitehead performance. Combine Whitehead’s performance with bad performances from Desi Rodriguez, Angel Delgado, and Khadeen Carrington, the Pirates found themselves out of the tournament a lot earlier than they would have liked.
There will be more uncertainties entering next season for the Pirates, most of them surrounding the potential departure of star Point Guard Isaiah Whitehead. Regardless of whether Whitehead decides to come back or not, this looks to be a pretty solid team heading into the 2016-2017 campaign. At the worst, they will return four of five starters and will add Kansas State transfer Jevon Thomas, 4 star guard Myles Powell, and potentially Taurean Thompson, who can play Center and allow Delgado to move back to his natural position at the 4. Hopefully those additions will enable the Pirates to compete for a national championship again, but the reasons were not able to win it this year were clear.
Class of 2020