In what could be the most unique non-conference event Seton Hall has been a part of in quite some time, the Pirates will head to Hawaii in early December to take on California and Hawaii in the Pearl Harbor Invitational.
A two-game non-tournament event orchestrated by FOX Sports to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Invitational will also feature a fourth school that (unfortunately) will not meet up with the Pirates: Princeton.
Set to air on FOX Sports 1, the Hall will first take on Hawaii on December 6th before facing off with Pac-12 stalwart California on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, December 7th.
A team you may remember from the NCAA tournament after upsetting California in the first round and playing Maryland tough in the second, Eran Ganot’s Hawaii will look nothing like they did a season ago after a mass exodus via graduation, transfer and several guys moving onto professional hoops.
Key departures: PF Stefan Jankovic (15.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg), G/F Aaron Valdes (14.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.4 apg), PG Roderick Bobbitt (13.2 ppg, 5.5 apg, 4.3 rpg), Quincy Smith (8.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.5 apg), F Sai Tummala (6.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg), G Isaac Fleming (9.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.3 apg), Stefan Jovanovic (4.9 ppg, 4 rpg)
Returnees to watch: F Michael Thomas (7.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg)
Impact additions: Noah Allen (UCLA grad. transfer), Larry Lewis Jr, (JuCo guard), Gibson Johnson (JuCo forward)
The ‘Bows have lost an incredible 85-percent of their scoring from a season ago with only forward Michael Thomas (7.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg) set to return from 2015-16’s main rotation of players. Four starters are gone including star point guard Roderick Bobbitt and center Stefan Jankovic, who was signed and then released by the Miami Heat and is now playing in the NBA D-League.
Despite their KenPom preseason ranking of 159, this Hawaii team projects to be a rebuilding project that will be lucky to come close to that ranking later in the season, providing Seton Hall with an opportunity to adjust to this unfamiliar setting ahead of a bigger test against California.
Cuonzo Martin’s team, on the other hand, looks poised to make a run to the NCAA tournament again this year.
Future pro Ivan Rabb is back as a preseason All-American after shunning the NBA and is joined by two other returning starters — center Kameron Rooks and wing Jabari Bird — plus Columbia graduate transfer guard Grant Mullins.
Departures: PG Tyrone Wallace (15.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.4 apg), F Jaylen Brown (14.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg) G Jordan Matthews (13.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
Returnees to watch: Ivan Rabb (12.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg), Kameron Rooks (3.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg), Jabari Bird (10.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg), Sam Singer (3.7 ppg, 2.6 apg, 2.5 rpg)
Key additions: Grant Mullins (Columbia grad. transfer)
Despite their returning talent, Cal has lost some significant pieces in senior point guard Tyrone Wallace, Jordan Matthews (Gonzaga) and last but certainly not least, Jaylen Brown, who was picked third overall in the NBA Draft; the trio were Cal’s top three scorers and accounted for 54-percent of Cal’s total points.
Still, the Golden Bears have been picked second in the Pac-12’s preseason Coaches Poll behind Arizona and sit just outside of both the preseason AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches Poll. Their preseason stature projects as yet another away from home opportunity for Seton Hall to notch a win that will turn the heads of selection committe members, should it come to that.
It looks like Cal has slightly more firepower at forward while Grant Mullins, Sam Singer and Jabari Bird (two-guard) will hold down the backcourt; Bird was relatively interchangeable with Jordan Matthews at the two/three last season.
England-native and 7-footer Kingsley Okoroh and Georgetown transfer Stephen Domingo were infrequently used last season by Cuonzo Martin but project to back up Rabb and Rooks on the block; it remains to be seen how deep this Cal team can go.
The travel will be tough, but this event gives the program an incredible opportunity to once again make national noise but also participate in an event that is about more than basketball, just ask Kevin Willard:
“It [non-conf. schedule] wasn’t supposed to be as tough travel but if you get the chance to play on the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, to be there and give your kids the experience and let them understand the history and how many people have scarified their lives so you can play a game, you can’t pass up that opportunity. When FOX came to us and asked ‘can you play’, that put the schedule the way it is … That’s something you can’t pass up.”