Last season marked the end of the Kevin Willard era for Seton Hall. In his time, the Pirates put together some incredible Big East moments. In 2014, it was Sterling Gibbs hitting a step back jumper to beat Villanova at the buzzer in the Big East tournament, and push Seton Hall over .500 in a lackluster season. Just two seasons later, the Pirates rode the red hot Isaiah Whitehead to defeat the Wildcats in dramatic fashion again, this time in the Big East Tournament Final. Willard himself fell over on the sideline, trying to will Whitehead’s final shot to fall through the cylinder. Willard’s best chance at a deep tournament run was, unquestionably, 2020. A team loaded with talent who started hot, and finished the Big East season with a share of the title. Unfortunately, the Pirates, and everyone else’s, season was cut short for reasons that should be obvious. Willard’s least season at the helm was nothing out of the ordinary for Seton Hall. An athletic, tough team who went to the NCAA Tournament, only to get bounced in the first round.
With Willard off to Maryland, and their good natured fanbase, the Pirates have appointed Shaheen Holloway as the new head coach. Holloway, a former Seton Hall player himself, put himself on the map last year when he guided St. Peter’s to the Elite 8. Holloway’s hiring has a generally feel-good vibe to it, but he has also proven to be more than capable on the sideline. He took St. Peter’s from a 6-12 record I the MAAC in 2019, to three straight winning seasons, and, of course, the Elite 8.
Unfortunately for Seton Hall, and decent folk everywhere, Jared Rhoden has moved on. Rhoden struggled taking on a larger role on offense than he was accustomed to last season, but was still the leader on the court and could torch teams that let him get too comfortable (see his 30 point performance at Cintas). Still, the highlight of Rhoden’s career was a garbage time dunk at Hinkle Fieldhouse, and, for that, he has my respect. Bryce Aiken is also on his way out after a couple seasons where he struggled to stay healthy long enough to see his full potential in a high major conference. Myles Cale wrapped up what felt like a 15-year college career in which he buried Kentucky in 2018, and played the glue guy role like a champ. Also leaving is Ike Obiagu. Obiagu was a non-factor offensively for Seton Hall, but the fact he was the size of a freeway overpass meant he rebounded and blocked like a menace.
Seton Hall loses three of their starters, and two of their best scoring options from last season. For a team that didn’t torch nets on offense, that is more than a small problem.
The best returning player in the program is Kadary Richmond, full stop. After being underutilized at Syracuse for being exciting to watch, Richmond landed at Seton Hall. He had ups and downs in his first season in the Big East, but also proved he could carry the team if he got hot. Richmond’s assist rate was top 50 in the nation last year, and his steal rate was 67th. His shooting numbers didn’t set the world on fire, and he throws the ball to the wrong team quite often, but his athleticism is elite and a full Big East campaign under his belt could turn him into a monster. Alexis Yetna returns and provides the Pirates a great rebounder and interior scoring presence. Joining Yetna in the “gets boards, can’t shoot outside the paint” category, is Tyrese Samuel. The extra layer Samuel provides is rim protection, as he was 10th in the conference in block percentage last season. Jamir Harris returns and provides decent outside, and not much else.
Coming from St. Peter’s with Hollway is KC Ndefo. Ndefo led St. Peter’s in usage, was second in assist rate and defensive rebounding, and was second in scoring. He was also instrumental to the defense that carried St. Peter’s to the Elite 8. The Big East isn’t the MAAC though, Ndefo’s lack of bulk for the position could be an issue, but his upside is worth the risk. Dre Davis fled Louisville like any reasonable person would, and brings a respectable 7.5 ppg and decent offensive rebounding for his size. Joining Davis are a couple of other ACC guys who wanna play in a basketball conference. Al-Amir Dawes from Clemson brings 3 point shooting that Seton Hall lacks. Femi Odukale from Pitt is another athletic guard with solid assist numbers and a respectable shot.
Seton Hall was picked to finish 7th in the Big East this preseason. While I think they’ll stay well clear of the basement dwellers, I can’t say that middle of the pack finish is far off for this team. Holloway will be in his first year coaching a high major team, and has done well to patch a roster together with transfers. This team will need Kadary Richmond to run the show for them, and needs the shooters to provide space for the athleticism of the wings and forwards. Seton Hall wouldn’t surprise me if they punch with teams at the top of the conference, and they also wouldn’t surprise me of they struggle against DePaul. Mid-table finish feels about right.