"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

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Seton Hall Preview, 2023-24

Seton Hall Pirates

January 6, 2024 at Prudential Center and January 27, 2024 at Fiserv Forum

Head Coach: Shaheen Holloway (81-73 overall, 17-16 at Seton Hall)

Three-Year NET Average: 60.7

Three-Year kenpom Average: 54.7

Projected 2023-24 T-Rank: 52

Projected Starters: PG Kadary Richmond (6'6" Sr), SG Al-Amir Dawes (6'2" 5th), SF Dylan Addae-Wusu (6'4" Sr), PF Dre Davis (6'6" Sr), C Elijah Hutchins-Everett (6'11" Jr)

Kadary Richmond drives through the Marquette defense

Photo by Mark Hoffman | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Shaheen Holloway's first season back in Newark went about as expected. His team played tough defense, ranking #20 nationally on kenpom. When they held opponents below 70 points, they went 16-5. But when they needed to outscore teams, they typically proved incapable, going just 1-12 when teams hit 70 points. Making matters worse, 4 of those 5 losses when teams failed to reach 70 came in the last 8 games of the season. When they were trying to make a push for the NCAA Tournament, the offense completely fell apart and they had no shot-makers to lift them to success at the high-major level. From that team, they lose three starters in Femi Odukale, KC Ndefo, and Tyrese Samuel, though they do return three of their top four scorers in Al-Amir Dawes, Kadary Richmond, and Dre Davis.

Richmond will have the keys to the offense. He's a physical mismatch for many point guards due to his length and physicality, though he turns it over too much and is probably better on the defensive end than the offensive one. Al-Amir Dawes is the most likely volume scorer on the roster, though of the four highest usage players last year in terms of shots taken, Dawes had the lowest eFG%. While he puts up points, he probably isn't the player best suited to be taking as many shots as he does. Dylan Addae-Wusu comes across the Hudson River from St. John's, where he was able to step up as a scorer, second ball-handler, and rebounder. He's a player that isn't elite at anything, but is pretty darn good at a lot of things and might be the X factor for this team. Dre Davis was more efficient at Seton Hall than he was at Louisville, but will need to translate that into more minutes as he steps into more minutes to replace the excellent defensive front court Holloway had. Elijah Hutchins-Everett seems the most likely replacement for Samuel. He has the frame of a Big East player and put up big numbers for Austin Peay, but that was admittedly at a far lower level. If he's not ready, don't be surprised if fellow transfers Sadraque NgaNga (Boise State) or Jaden Bediako (Santa Clara) get reps in the front court. Jaquan Sanders will also need to step up more as the Hall doesn't have a deep back court.

Offensively, Holloway's teams want to pound you inside. They look to attack downhill, feed the bigs, and get to the line. When they don't score, they pound the glass and look for putbacks. Don't expect much modern offense, this isn't a team that will turn up the tempo and spread the floor. They are tough, gritty, and score more with physicality than style. Defense is where Holloway makes his money. His teams are aggressive in forcing turnovers, blocking shots, and making closeouts. While many teams attack on offense, Holloway's teams attack with their defense. The downside is this does leave them open to giving up second chance opportunities, which can drag out possessions. The biggest worry, however, might be the personnel changes. When the now-departed Odukale, Ndefo, and Samuel were on the floor together per hoop-explorer.com, the Pirates gave up a suffocating 81.6 adjusted points per 100 possessions, a full 11 points better than their already elite 92.6/100 on all possessions. Compare that to expected starter Hutchins-Everett, whose Austin Peay squad was actually 10.2/100 points worse with him on the floor.

So what's the expectation for Seton Hall? None of the additions really give much hope that the offense will be significantly better. The best incoming offensive rating per kenpom is Bediako at 104.0 for a guy that got role-playing minutes in the WCC. This will again be a team that needs to win games on the defensive end, but it feels like a real concern losing arguably their three best defenders. Seton Hall's front court had the ability to smother teams and while Holloway has been able to consistently find defensive success, it doesn't look like this crop of transfers is on par talent-wise with what the Pirates had in the front court a year ago. This is a bottom half Big East team that just doesn't look to have the roster to compete for an NCAA bid.

One Man's Opinion: I expect the Pirates to finish 8th in the Big East. Holloway had an offensively challenged team a year ago, and not only did he not add notable offensive pieces, but he lost the spine of his defense and replaced it with lesser defensive players. There's still enough here to give some good teams trouble on nights when the shots aren't falling. Holloway has proven he can coach defense, so I imagine even if this defense isn't on par with last year, it still won't be a joy to play against. But a worse defense and an offense with no signs of improvement is just a worse version of what we saw last year, which was already a 7th place team that missed the NCAA Tournament.

No comments: