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Know Your Big East Opponent: Seton Hall

The Pirates self destructed last season and ended up an afterthought. Can Kevin Willard keep it all together this year?

No way this ends well...
No way this ends well...
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

On their day last season, the Seton Hall Pirates were a handful for most any team in the nation. They opened last season's Big East play by beating St. John's and Villanova before taking down Marquette and going to overtime with Butler, all in the span of two weeks. In fact, when Xavier last saw them it was in a 90-82 loss which pushed the Pirates a half game ahead in the race for Big East tournament seeding. That would prove the high water mark for the season, as background tensions came to the foreground and derailed a promising year. Seton Hall would only win one game out of their nine played after that point, a one point affair at home to fellow strugglers Creighton. During that time span, highly touted freshman Isaiah Whitehead's antics would alienate the rest of the squad, starting point guard Jaren Sina would walk away from the team, and the star of the early season rise, Sterling Gibbs, would punch a prone Ryan Arcidiacano directly in the face in the middle of a basketball game. Ostensibly, the goal is probably to avoid that stuff this year.

As stated above, the season was not without bright spots, but almost every autopsy was overwhelmingly negative due to the shambolic nature of the collapse. Not only had the team lost 8 of their final 9 games, they seemed to lose their way in the process, becoming undisciplined and ragged as the losses piled up. A large part of that was due to the freshman heavy rotation, which saw five freshman feature regularly for Willard's gang. Unfortunately for the Seton Hall faithful, those will be the only players back form last year's team as Sina and Gibbs both left to transfers and Brandon Mobley, Stephane Manga, and Haralds Karlis all graduated. Obviously, that will reshape the look of Seton Hall on the floor, but the main question to be answered will be in the locker room, where it seems to have all come apart last year.

Returning Players:

Isaiah Whitehead got a lot of ink as a possible Big East Freshman of the Year last season, but it is hard to call his first season anything but a dud. To say he shot a lot is somewhat unfair as he also took it upon himself to pass to the wrong team a lot, as well. However, he did also shoot a lot, which he did for reasons beyond my understanding as he chucked up an abysmal shooting line of .367/.346/.746. When it came time for conference play he finally wised up an- just kidding, he shot at the third highest rate in the conference despite his two point percentage dipping to .338 in conference play. The actual Big East Freshman of the Year was Dominican big man Angel Delgado who averaged 9.3/9.8/0.9 per game and came into his own as Whitehead faded. He established himself as an elite rebounder in the Big East as well as a player for opponents to take notice of on offense.

Khadeen Carrington showed flashes of incredible talent as well last season, scoring 20 twice in the Big East and being one of the better players in their lone post January win over Creighton. Carrington will be called on at the guard spots a lot this year, and showed the ability to get to the line and be effective last year. Desi Rodriguez is a 6-6 small forward who sporadically started last season. He hits the boards extremely well for someone his size and is a good defender, but did not make much noise on offense except for the 16 he posted against Xavier. Rashed Anthony is a big body underneath whose physicality and struggles with adjusting to the pace of the college game saw him play 15 minutes four times last season and foul out of three of those games.  Also returning is Michael Nzei, who used a year of eligibility last year while also managing not to appear in a game. The final rising sophomore is Ismael Sanogo, who averaged 5.3 minutes per game last year and did not do a lot with them that would suggest an expanded role this season.

Newcomers:

Headlining Seton Hall's incoming freshman class is 6'7 ", 185 lb. wing Veer Singh, who is seen as a borderline 3/4 star recruit, and reclassified from 2016 to be part of this class. Singh comes in without the fanfare of Whitehead or Delgado but will probably play a significant part this season because of his perimeter shooting, which will be badly needed on a team returning just 1 player who shot over 30% last season. Next up is 6'9" 230 lb. forward Myles Carter, who is regarded across the board as a 3 star recruit. Carter figures to slot in right behind Delgado on the depth chart and give the Pirates a pair of physical rebounding presences underneath.  What is less clear is if Carter is a ready to be a scorer as Delgado was, given that his final season of high school was affected by knee injuries it is a bit of an unknown at this point. The other freshman is 6'5" 190 lb. San Diego native Dalton Soffer. The lowdown of Soffer is that his not a highly touted recruit overall, being rated at 2 stars most everywhere, but he is also noted as being an excellent outside shooter, which is something that Seton Hall needs with the departure of Gibbs. Soffer may not be a superstar in the making, but he has a tool in his arsenal that the Pirates need, and that should get him some time this season.

Seton Hall also made moves in the realm of getting in transfers but the only one suiting up this year is former UMass guard Derrick Gordon. Gordon started at Western Kentucky before leaving for two years with the Minutemen and is now using his final year of eligibility with Seton Hall. He is a pure point guard who only gets points on the dribble drive, but is not an efficient scorer. He is not a terribly efficient ballhandler either, with his turnover rate being a bit high for someone tasked with taking care of the ball.  However, he will bring an experienced hand that is otherwise lacking in Seton Hall's backcourt and is an excellent rebounder for a guard as well.

Outlook:

A lot depends on if everything can come together for Seton Hall this year. The talent was there last season to do some damage, but the team lost focus and fell apart down the stretch. Now Delgado is a known entity and should be the focal point of the attack, but Whitehead showed a certain unwillingness to defer when he is not the hot hand last season. Carrington, Reodriguez, Singh, Carter, and Gordon make a pretty solid supporting cast, but it will be down to if they actually get used be the guys out front that will make the difference between Seton Hall turning the corner and making the NCAA tournament this year, or failing to meet their potential again.