"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Monday, October 14, 2019

Seton Hall Preview

Seton Hall Pirates
January 11, Prudential Center, South Orange, NJ; February 29, fiserv.forum

Coach: Kevin Willard (169-126 at Seton Hall, 214-175 overall)
3-Year NCAA Rank Average: 44.0
3-Year kenpom Average: 45.7
2019-20 T-Rank Projection: 29

Projected Starters: PG Quincy McKnight (6'3" RS Sr), SG Myles Powell (6'2" Sr), SF Myles Cale (6'6" Jr), PF Sandro Mamukelashvili (6'10" Jr), C Ike Obiagu (7'2" C)

Seton Hall had a roller coaster of a season last year. They had a rocky 1-2 start before finishing non-con on a tear, including wins over Kentucky, Miami, and Maryland away from home. They started conference play 2-0 before dropping six of their next eight games. A three-game winning streak was followed by a three-game losing streak. They rallied at the end, earning home wins over Marquette and Villanova before a trip to the Big East Tournament final proved just enough to earn them an at-large bid. It wasn't overwhelming success, but it was a solid result for what was expected to be a transitional year.

Most of that team comes back for the Pirates. Powell leads the way and, along with Markus Howard, is one of two Big East players that is expected to be in the running for All-American honors. Cale, McKnight, and Mamukelashvili are all decent complementary scoring options. In the middle, Obiagu leads a hosts of bigs, including Romaro Gill, Taurean Thompson, and Tyrese Samuel. While they won't likely contribute much offensively, they have a lot of rim protection options.

On offense, Seton Hall's strategy was basically run everything through Powell. He took 31.4% of the shots when he was on the floor, no other player that averaged double-digit minutes took more than 20%. They ran a ton of screens for him and when he drew extra attention, he would be used as a decoy to open up the bigs down low. It seems their entire offense is either designed for Powell or to take advantage of the attention given to Powell. Defensively, they were decidedly mediocre last year. They want to chase teams off the line and funnel them into the shot blockers, but don't really excel in any aspect. The additional size and experience should help, but consistency has been a problem for them throughout Willard's career so it's hard to expect that with a fairly static roster.

The consensus seems to be that Seton Hall is ready for a breakthrough. The Big East coaches picked them to win the league and they are consistently picked as a top-2 Big East team and top-15 team nationally. I don't see it. This is essentially the same roster that looked certain to go to the NIT in early March. Their offense is completely reliant on one player and their defense is shaky at best. In addition, Kevin Willard has struggled to get the best out of his most talented teams. Powell is a phenomenal talent but there's no one who has shown the ability to be the Robin to his Batman. Further, while you don't need to be a great defensive team to top the polls, you need to be able to get stops, and I'm not convinced Seton Hall can do that. This looks like a tournament team, but I think they're more likely to be a middle-of-the-pack team in the league and in line for a seed in the 6-9 range than the 3-5 pundits seems to be expecting.

Marquette Memory: Let's go all the way back to March of this year. After Marquette choked away a 13-point lead in under 10 minutes at the Rock, Wojo's team faced Seton Hall a second time in 9 days at Madison Square Garden with a trip to the Big East Tournament final on the line. Marquette was leading with 12:48 to play when James Breeding took over the game. The problem being, of course, that James Breeding was a referee. An altercation under the Seton Hall basket led to Marquette starters Sacar Anim and Theo John being thrown out along with Seton Hall's Sandro Mamukelashvili and Myles Powell. Then, inexplicably, despite having been called for both a flagrant and a technical foul, the refs called for Myles Powell to come back from the locker room. Powell rallied the Hall from a 5-point deficit, scoring or assisting on 14 of SHU's final 23 points. Oh, and despite the traveshamockery this game was, Breeding went on to officiate in the Final Four.

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