JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Seton Hall will look to notch a win in the N.C.A.A. tournament for a second year in a row for the first time since 1992-93 when they clash with Wofford on Thursday night.
The Pirates have already matched their 1991-94 sequence of four straight tournament bids, but they have a little work to do to match the tail-end of those glory years in terms of advancing in March.
Oddly enough, the feeling is this Seton Hall team has a better chance to advance to the second weekend than last year’s group. You would have been institutionalized if you said that with a straight face preseason.
Kentucky’s P.J. Washington appears doubtful for the entire first weekend, Seton Hall would get the luxury of playing a two-seed on short rest that they’ve already beaten this season, and they could potentially face the Wildcats in front of a crowd a bit less daunting than Kansas in Kansas.
Of course all this is looking ahead, but even if the Pirates were to falter tonight, the above forecast remains true.
That said, tonight has the chance to be a really good one. CBS, prime time on the opening day, two star players in Myles Powell and Fletcher Magee.
Seton Hall is playing with house money. For their sake, let’s hope they’re not too comfortable with this being considered success.
Three keys to victory
Ball security and poise from the guards. Seton Hall’s turnovers have gone way down over the past five games but even ignoring statistics, the offense has looked a lot more cohesive for stretches of play when compared to earlier in the season.
A true team effort. Of course Seton Hall will need Myles Powell to get his on offense to resemble their usual self, but there’s a difference between a forced 25 points, and a type of game where it’s a “quiet” 25.
What I mean by that is his points come more naturally and in the flow of the game rather than a hero-like effort. The Pirates don’t necessarily need a 15/15 game from Sandro Mamukelashvili or an 18-point, six-assist showing from Quincy McKnight, but they need everyone to contribute equally and consistently from Powell all the way down to Shavar Reynolds Jr.
Locking up on defense, especially Fletcher Magee. You would think tonight might just be another night in the life of Quincy McKnight. Chris Lykes, Ashton Hagans, Geo Baker, Anthony Cowan, Shamorie Ponds, Markus Howard, and now Fletcher Magee.
But as alluded to, McKnight & Co., emphasis on his company, will need to make this a team effort. It sounds like a lengthier Myles Cale will see time on Magee, who as far as backcourt threats go, is a different breed than anything the team has faced this year. I suspect we’ll see a version of shutting down the sources that feed Magee from Kevin Willard, as he spoke at length of how balanced they are offensively.
I don’t expect it to, but if this game comes close to resembling the chippy, defensive-minded, physical games we’ve grown accustomed to over conference play, edge: Pirates.
If Wofford springs a few surprises and keeps Seton Hall’s defense guessing, then we’ll see a neck-and-neck game that poses a much greater threat.
I think we’ll see something closer to the latter, but not an absolute shootout: 74-70 Pirates.
KenPom says: No. 20 Wofford 74, No. 56 Seton Hall 69
Series history: Seton Hall has never played Wofford
Projected Wofford starters
G – Storm Murphy
G – Fletcher Magee
G – Nathan Hoover
F – Keve Aluma
F – Cameron Jackson
Projected Seton Hall starters
G – Quincy McKnight
G – Myles Powell
G/F – Myles Cale
F – Sandro Mamukelashvili
F – Mike Nzei
TV: CBS, 30 minutes after Kentucky-Abilene Christian
Opening line: Seton Hall +3
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