Five thoughts: Willard legacy, seeding & more

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Seton Hall’s bubble burst in thrilling fashion on Saturday afternoon, as they downed No. 13 Butler in a game which will be remembered similarly to Pittsburgh in 2006, though hopefully with a better outcome.

Post-win, below are a couple thoughts on the game yesterday and a few zoomed-out big picture thoughts on the team.

Five thoughts

At what point do we start to discuss Kevin Willard’s legacy? There were a lot of comparisons to the P.J. Carlesimo era last season because of many “first times since…”, but replicating that kind of success two years in a row is remarkable in terms of Seton Hall hoops. There are still a lot of variables at play, but factor in the core that Willard has and some of the incoming talent (and pending talent like Trevon Duval), and the future can be very bright. Remember: Willard was in talks with a realtor to sell his home two years ago.

How good was the guard play down the stretch? Khadeen Carrington scored 12 of his 17 in the second half, most of which came late on, and Myles Powell of course hit those two big three-pointers after a barrage of misses over his last few games — he was officially 0-for-16 dating back to the end of DePaul. Desi Rodriguez and Angel Delgado largely carried the team offensively to that point, but it seems like the guards excel in a more down-hill attack-attack-attack approach. 

Yet again, Seton Hall set the bar higher for ultimate toughness and resiliency. Like I noted in my quick post-game recap, this was yet another case of bend but not break. Down 10 on the road at Hinkle, extreme foul trouble, your best player on the bench injured, a six-man rotation — and it didn’t matter. I was thinking that only an offensive outburst would turn the game around and while strong defense helped, it was 23 points over the final 7 minutes that did the trick.

How far can this team go? I still don’t think this group is better than last year’s team, but their ability to prove everyone wrong is a wildcard factor at this point. Marquette and then Villanova is the path to the Big East final whereas NCAA seeding is still pending…

On that note, the Pirates are now playing for NCAA seeding. That’s a comforting feeling and it should take some pressure off the team on the court, though who knows if that is a good or bad thing. Seton Hall is now an 8-seed according to Jerry Palm (CBS) while they’re still a 10-seed for Joe Lunardi (ESPN). Regardless, they will need to at least beat Marquette to threaten to get out of the 8-9 game, which almost surely eliminates the chance of making an NCAA run; falling to a 10-seed could actually be better.

As a bonus, check out Gary Cohen’s call of Myles Powell’s big-time three below.

  • RonD

    I’m sure everyone heard Holtman say about SHU in the 2nd half huddle: it’s what they do, going beast mode on the boards. Well that’s who we are– tough, hard nosed, gritty and resilient. We beat Butler at their own game. The two programs that most resemble old school BE (aside from NOVA which is good at everything) are SHU and Providence. It ain’t pretty but with the right guys playing it is effective.

    • Joe Schmoe

      “Listen guys, they aren’t going away….” when I heard that I knew the game was over.

  • The Other Matt

    You have to love being a Hall fan, even though it can be nerve-wracking at times. If not all the time. Never comfortable. Never easy. Never out of it. Resiliency is the exact word to describe this team. They remind you to not count them out even in moments when you know you should and, admittedly, sometimes do.

    As it goes, “Fight, Fight, Fight, for the Blue and White … And the glory of Seton Hall.” This group exemplifies just that.

    As always, Hazard Zet Forward.

    #HALLin

  • hallstorm

    I love the toughness and tenacity of this team. I’m not sure we can yet speak of Wiliard’s legacy, but I’ve certainly been in his corner all season long as the team continues to play with muscle on hard defense and rebounding: two hallmarks of PJ’s teams (free throw shooting, which was supremely emphasized by PJ [and not one of Boeheim’s guards’ strengths back then, for a polarized lower priority] is something that worries me if teams decide to hack our big men at the end of games). His decision to shift his focus to man-to-man defense and crashing the boards has always kept us in games sans Villanova this year.

    We can only hope our boys keep going through Angel throughout the rest of the season as we enter into both tournaments.

  • Andrew Herbst

    This team is so mentally tough. It’s a testament to Willard and the rest of the coaching staff. We didn’t give up after starting off 3-6 in BE play and kept battling. It’s something that will help us on Thursday and in the Big Dance.

  • Joe Schmoe

    On Willard’s legacy. That will depend on how well he replaces the exiting talent. Powell is a player of the future. Will Delgado leave after this season or come back for his senior year? If Carrington/Delgado/Desi all return healthy…add in Powell..and some star recruits. His legacy will build. With SHU on the cusp of there 2nd straight NCAA berth, being a perinnial tournament team is now a major recruiting chip. We should be seeing top talent looking at the Hall as a top choice, not 2nd and 3rd chance transfers

    • Mosleyman

      I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s way too soon to assess the coach’s legacy. So far, I think we can say that he has returned Seton Hall to respectability, at least temporarily, mostly based on one exceptional recruiting class (though I must admit that I was surprised to learn that, as of today, he has a better winning percentage at Seton Hall than any coach since Honey Russell, including PJ), But his overall recruiting record is uneven, and that’s the backbone of a consistently strong program. The class of this year’s sophomores clearly didn’t work out and, while it’s encouraging to be finalists for some top talent (e.g. Silva, Thompson, Aiken, Eastern), there are no prizes unless we get them. He needs to score big this year with some of the 4 and 5 star recruits he’s after just to maintain where we are, much less progress further.

      One other thought: with two 20-win seasons in a row, does he become a target for other, larger schools who have already begun to fire their coaches? I saw the Missouri coach got whacked this weekend, and there will surely be more to come. I hope he doesn’t go, but if he did, he wouldn’t be the first (see T. Amaker).

      • 11yearplan

        Mosleyman: I agree, way too early to assess legacy. The comparison to PJ is a good one as they took the same journey. Both had to rebuild the athletic department from the ground up, had teams that in the beginning which could not get out of their way, had to live with fans saying they could not coach at the BE level, had talent which many said underachieved and took about as long to put a finished product on the floor. PJ’s team in 89-90 (the year after reaching the finals) was a difficult one to watch. Hopefully Coach Willard lands the point guard the team will need, does not have the down year and the NBA does not come calling; so their journeys can take a different path.

        I don’t like the comparison to Coach Amaker, who treated SHU like a stepping stone. He brought in some highly talented very bad eggs which he used to put himself on the map quickly. He did not care about what was left when he quit and did nothing for the athletic department. He made it tough on Coach Orr.

        BTW: If there are only 2 scholarship players leaving at the end of this season (Jones and Thomas) and we already have two players signed, where does Duval’s scholarship come from?

        • hallstorm

          Remember–Myles Carter was dismissed and Veer Singh transferred (left the program)

          • 11yearplan

            Thanks. I forgot.

        • hallstorm

          I wrote about Chris’ too quick word on legacy earlier here. I don’t think we can compare a legacy quite yet. PJ had a good relationship with Bob Hurley at St. Anthony and was really the first NCAA coach to stress the weight room and work on positioning and out-muscling opponents. It really started with Mark Bryant and his own beast mode during the ’87-88 season and then it trickled down to Darryl Walker, Ramon Ramos and Anthony Avent.

          I do think Williard has turned a huge corner with his improvement on conditioning with players and the defense and rebounding. I also think he’s made fantastic inroads with the local high school coaches and players. His name and Seton Hall’s are each beginning to turn heads in the area and he is recognizing talent early in the developmental years of these kids and I do believe it’ll pay dividends very soon.

          • LBP

            Hallstorm– a topic before every Home game in my section has been about why the Hall does not retire and hang Mark Bryant’s uniform. In my opinion, and a number of my fellow Hallers, MB was the most important SHU recruit ever.

          • hallstorm

            I would couple him with James Major (one of my personal favorites), but yeah Bryant was just a bruising PF. If I remember correctly, he was a first round pick–around 15 or 16. I remember them getting throttled in the tournament by 50 or so by Arizona (which is why I loooooooved when they beat AZ in the ’91 sweet 16 before they lost to UNLV) in ’88, but he was really the trademark Seton Hall power player that defined the team’s stout defense and rebounding. And I agree that he should have his number retired.

            Callandrillo was a scoring machine, but Bryant was really THE guy that goes under the radar.

        • Joe Schmoe

          Remember, athletic scholarships are one year renewable contracts. The school has until July 1st of 2017 to inform a player if their contract won’t be renewed.

        • Drew Guritzky

          Seton Hall should have five slots. They may not have 5 scholarship spots though. Carter, Singh, Thomas, and Jones all occupy scholarship spots. Seton Hall has only signed 2 players. Dowdy Jr. probably doesn’t hold a scholarships spot. They have the ability to make some nice moves, via if Duval chooses, and a really good senior transfer. Seton Hall with just Duval would be a T15 team, if they can get a great backup PG to help him via a transfer, and everyone stays, Seton Hall could have a legit shot next year, especially if Cale is as good as it projected, and they can get Nzei to play more consistently on both ends, along with a healthy Sanogo. Obviously right now that’s a pipe dream, but it’s definitely a possibility if that all comes together. Should be an interesting offseason if Duval signs with the Pirates. However, 2018-19 is going to be a meh year potentially due to loss of almost everyone.

          • hallstorm

            A few things here I’ll comment on for both next year and the year after… 6’7″ Shakur Juiston is a really great possible JUCO transfer option for next season. Kansas just offered him and he is arguably one of the top 3-5 JUCO players available. Plus, he played high school at Paterson Eastside. Would love to have him come, but Kansas and a couple others really like him.

            I know Jordan Walker is under-sized and isn’t rated as highly on some scouting reports, but the kid constantly produces points, assists, steals and runs a highly efficient offense over at St. Patrick’s. He’s also gotten better as his senior year has gone along. If we got Duval, he would be the absolute perfect back-up and would be ready to step in for ’18-19. We have also reached out to 6’11” Sandro Mamukelashvili–I’m not sure if we are still pursuing him hard, but he’s moved up the aggregate recruiting ranks around the country and lots of schools are also now pursuing him.

            The local kids in the class of ’18 is just a stellar group. It’s an absolutely loaded bunch of talent that we’ve been heavily involved with for 2-3 years already. I would love to see Williard land 4-5 of these guys and they could blend in with Powell, Cale, Brodie and some others and the team can be quite good.

            My point is, lots of things are in constant motion, so it’s very difficult to say what each future season will yield in terms of production or player quality. It’s way too early to try to pontificate as to what the ’18-19 year will look like.

          • Mosleyman

            Agree on Juiston, but I haven’t seen any recent reports linking him to Seton Hall, while Kansas, Iowa St and Rhode Island have all been out there to see him. I know he was in to see SH over the holidays, but does anyone know if we are actually still involved with him?

  • Matty P

    The NY Post had an interesting article (which Chris retweeted) about how far Delgado has come in the past couple of years. Going from a kid that didn’t want to leave the DR and knew no English to where he’s at today. He’s certainly transformed himself and SHU as part of the recruiting class that will hopefully change the narrative on SHU and bring it back to being a place where they consistently make the NCAA tournament and gain interest from recruits. Certainly going to miss Delgado whenever he leaves the program.

    http://nypost.com/2017/03/05/seton-hall-star-left-it-all-behind-to-follow-his-dream-to-america/

    • PadrePirate

      Angel has become the leader we lacked at the beginning of the season.
      As for his future, since he will likely not be a lottery pick this year, I really think he should graduate. Angel’s vertical is going to keep him out of the NBA until he can prove himself by baby steps. Why not have a strong senior season, get a diploma, and then play pro overseas the following year?

      • Matty P

        I hope that he does decide to stay another year and leave SHU with a degree. My only concern would be finances for his family back in the DR and the calling of an overseas team who can pay him a good salary. I don’t know how his family currently lives, but I do know the average salary in the DR is roughly $200 usd/month. I’ve also traveled for a client to the area that he lives and can vouch for him that it’s a very tough area to grow up.

        • Drew Guritzky

          This actually emphasis the need for him to stay in school rather than leave. If he leaves and gets hurt, he may have no avenue to earn a degree with a lack of funds, however if he finishes, even if he doesn’t turn it into a productive career in hoops, he’ll have the ability to get a good job with his degree. I think all well, he’s a late second rounder, where he could next year play himself into the first. I think he has to stay.

          • Matty P

            One could argue that if his agent does a good job and includes injury insurance that there’s little risk he wouldn’t have the funds to complete a degree. Also, if an overseas team offers him an $80-100k/year contract which includes housing and meals that it could be enticing enough since he give a large portion of that money to help his family (I don’t know his family’s living situation, so I’m not sure how much they’d be in need of additional money).

            I think he should be included as a late 2nd rounder right now, but still haven’t seen his name on many draft sites. Plus I think even if he can match or somehow exceed this year he might be limited to the early second round due to his limitations in athletic ability and his age compared to other 1st rounders.

  • LBP

    I have been pretty hard on Madison Jones all year–but I just watched the replay of MP’S second 3 and saw M.Jones jump around with joy when shot went in. Now I feel (kinda) bad for dissing him –so I will try and make it up by saying nice things until @ 2:45 pm Thursday :-)– we are going to have lotsa fun in this Big East Tournie !!!!

    • Matt

      Everyone has been hard on Madison Jones and for good reason a lot of the time haha… But yeah they look so in sync this will be fun to watch. I can’t believe its two years in a row.

  • fouline

    Outside of the players he brought in on the sale of 2 coaching positions, his recruiting has been weak. He’ not a very good in-game coach. He calls out his players. He even blames the schedule – God, the schedule. Yet despite all this, we have or will be in the NCAAs twice in a row. Personally, I give all or most of the credit to the players. Last year Whitehead brought us the glory. This year Delgado. If we had a coach who could better manage the game we would have a better future.

  • RonD

    Of course you have to have players to do well, so who cares how he got them provided no rules were broken and none were. Plus it happens at all major schools– think Kansas, DePaul to name a few. Plus, Delgado committed well before Antigua was hired as asst coach. So just let it go, that was nearly 4 years ago. Who cares, only people who have a agenda.

    So now, the players apparently coach themselves. They must really be something as 18-22 year olds to not only play well, but set up the defense, run an offense. Does anyone posting here think we win at Butler without the coach? 22 BE wins in the past two years is 2nd or 3rd best in the league. Back to back 20 win seasons and NCAA appearances hasn’t happened in 23 YEARS. But yeah, the guy can’t coach.

    The program hasn’t been in this good shape in DECADES. We have 3 or 4 core players back next year plus Powell and Cale. We need more going forward but we have recruiting opportunities this year and next. Great AD, institutional support, new facilities, anyone not seeing the future as bright chooses not to see it.

    • Matt

      Yeah fouline is Mr. Negative and no credit around here

  • LBP

    +2000 to win Tournie –Could not get my HUNDO down fast enough

    • Matty P

      Nice to hear that he’ll be taking the visit to SHU. I know he said he would, but I hadn’t seen anything about the visit until this. Wonder if the coaching staff can get him over to the Garden to show him a little bit of the behind the scenes at the BE tournament.