Advocare Invitational: Seton Hall’s toughest test awaits

Poised to make national noise after taking care of Iowa on the road in commanding fashion, Seton Hall is set to clash with Florida on Thanksgiving in the Advocare Invitational.

Albeit against one of the youngest teams in the country, the Pirates looked calm under pressure and failed to lose their lead in Iowa City for the final 16:37 despite a less than 100-percent healthy Angel Delgado (9 pts, 11 rebs).

In case you forgot (is that possible?), freshman two-guard Myles Powell was the star of the show as he poured in 26 points (5-7 3pt) while the ever-present Desi Rodriguez and Khadeen Carrington combined for 45.

The Hall is ranked one spot behind undefeated Florida (4-0) in both the AP (No. 33) and USA Today Coaches Poll (No. 30), setting up an appetizing Turkey Day matchup that will likely decide who takes on No. 11 Gonzaga in the semifinal; the Bulldogs take on winless Quinnipiac. 

These two schools have met only once before when Florida won 70-68 on last second free throws in the preseason NIT final back in 1987. Seton Hall was described as a “perennial doormat” by the NY Times, which was accurate at the time but comical in retrospect as they were just about to reach the program’s pinnacle in the years to come.

Seton Hall is faced with a chance to take down a top-10 KenPom ranked school, which will likely project as a resume win come March and only garner more votes in the AP poll should they carry momentum into the final rounds of the Advocare Invitational.

Scouting Florida:

As I wrote earlier this month, second-year coach Mike White returns every significant player except one from his 25-11 team that lost to George Washington in the NIT quarterfinals in March while the Gators have received a spark from College of Charleston graduate transfer Canyon Berry.

The senior wing is averaging 13.3 ppg — tops on the team — despite playing the role of an impact sixth-man for a group that is on the other side of the experience spectrum (62nd) compared to Iowa.

Like Seton Hall, the Gators have a rotation that goes at least eight-deep — six of which are juniors or seniors. White’s team is more methodical (186th tempo) than the Hall has been used to this season (Iowa was 12th) and they are ranked sixth in defensive efficiency after finishing 14th last year; Florida has held their opponents to 60 ppg so far.

The Gators haven’t played any powerhouses, but all four opponents are ranked 160th or better in KenPom and they’ve had to tour Florida, playing away from the O’Connell Center due to renovations which will surely have prepared them for a neutral court Advocare Invitational game in their backyard.

Three things to watch:

It looks like he will be close to 100-percent, but Angel Delgado’s health is a concern after he looked a bit hobbled against Iowa even though he nearly tallied a third consecutive double-double to start the season. Kevin Willard will need all his offensive weapons ready to go against a strong defensive team that will have formidable size across their starting front line in 6-11 USF transfer John Egbunu, 6-8 Justin Leon and 6-8 Justin Robinson.

While the focus has been on Angel, let’s not forget about Ish Sanogo. It seems clear that Willard’s glue guy has also been playing banged up after he sustained a pre-season knee injury, prompting Willard to tell media Sanogo played longer than he should have (29 mins) in the season-opener. Ish has done fine in the scoring column, but he has not yet reached last season’s form in other areas of his game that make him special. Seton Hall will need Sanogo or another supporting forward like Mike Nzei to rise to the occasion alongside Delgado on Thursday.

Seton Hall’s free throw shooting is a legitimate concern. It’s not surprising, but it is a worry since the Pirates rank 340th in free throw percentage (56.6%), down from 65.8% in 2015-16. The focus should be less on Delgado and Nzei’s collective 11-25 rate and moreso on Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez combining to make 18 of 33 (54%). To top things off, Madison Jones is a career 53-percent from the line, which makes for a very shaky backcourt when a close game comes down to the charity stripe.

KenPom says: No. 10 Florida 74, No. 36 Seton Hall 71 (39%)

Projected Seton Hall starters
PG – Madison Jones (4.7 ppg, 5.7 apg)
SG – Khadeen Carrington (21.7 ppg, 3 apg)
SF – Desi Rodriguez (16.3 ppg, 8 rpg, 3 apg)
F – Ish Sanogo (5.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
F – Angel Delgado (15 ppg, 13.7 rpg)

Projected Florida starters
PG – Kasey Hill (6.5 ppg, 3.8 apg)
G – KeVaughn Allen (12.3 ppg)
G/F – Devin Robinson (12.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg)
F – Justin Leon (7.8 ppg, 4 rpg)
F – John Egbunu (9.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg)

When: Thanksgiving, 830pm ET
Radio: 970 AM (Gary Cohen, Dave Popkin)
Opening line: Seton Hall +3