Greenville Notebook: A post-mortem look at Seton Hall – Arkansas

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Greenville, S.C. — As the depressing dust settles on Seton Hall’s 21-win season, its time to digest on a more rational level what exactly happened. 

For starters, my three stories from yesterday: 

If you thought there isn’t anything left to be said after three stories, you’re wrong. I’ve compiled a handful of quotes and some of my thoughts from the game, which I wrote at 11:30 under the duress of headache-inducing noise from Marquette-South Carolina, which was a literal Gamecock home game. 

Also, I would like to give a special shout-out to Joey Khan of The Setonian, who did terrific work for them all season and allowed me to use some of his shots from the game yesterday, including the feature photo above.

Five thoughts:

I touched upon this in my game story, but Angel Delgado’s fourth foul began the unraveling. Regardless of whether it was a foul or not (I thought it was), it’s inexcusable as a center to pick up your fourth with so much time remaining in the game, defending a 90-percent foul shooter on the perimeter. It was both a tactical disruption and a mental blow to the team. But still, four turnovers and three points over the last 6+ minutes is baffling.

Desi Rodriguez really hurt Seton Hall on both sides of the ball. As usual, I received a few tweets about mistakes from Madison Jones, but he scored 11 and turned it over three times while playing 36 minutes in a frantic game. Elsewhere, Rodriguez was 4-of-17 from the field with two turnovers and frankly an unnecessarily forceful foul that was switched to a flagrant; Delgado also coughed the rock up five times. I think the finger should be pointed at Kevin Willard here more than anything — why did Rodriguez get the green light like Isaiah Whitehead last year in Denver?

Kevin Willard primarily rolled with Mike Nzei and not Ish Sanogo in a big game. Sure, Sanogo was still not 100-percent healthy and he had played infrequently over the last month, but this is notable. I do agree with Willard’s choice down the stretch as Seton Hall needed points more than it did stops, although it didn’t necessarily pan out in the end.

Arkansas turned out to be a pretty good ball club. As you’ll see below, Moses Kingsley’s jumper was not in the scouting report, but regardless the Nigerian played a huge game, literally. The Hogs were also able to answer all three lead changes well, defended the interior (outside of rebounding), and controlled the pace.

The big picture implication of this loss isn’t unanimous. My instant reaction yesterday was one of relative satisfaction when compared to pre-season expectations, but big picture, this loss puts a lot of pressure on Seton Hall’s rising senior class to win an NCAA tournament game or risk what would be an ultimately disappointing four years. Can both be true? Is my recollection that making it to the Big East semis and just an NCAA bid as meeting expectations wrong? I still think most fans would have signed up for that deal back in October.

Five quotes (and one):

Kevin Willard on how tough of a loss this was, given he hasn’t won an NCAA tournament game: “It’s tough. I’m not going to lie to you. It’s tough. To have the kids play — it’s not about me. College basketball is not about me. I think it’s going to be extremely difficult for these guys and how hard they worked, the hours and the travel, everything.

“I feel for these kids because they’ve really bought in to each other. They bought into the program. I’m going to wake up tomorrow morning and I’ll do what I do on Saturdays, is go to my son’s basketball game.

“These kids, college basketball is about the kids, it’s about the student-athletes. It’s about their emotions and I’m just so proud of what they’ve done for this program. It’s going to be tough for them. It’s hard when you lose and you have a game. But that’s hoops, man. That’s ball. It’s life. You’ve got to bounce back, and I’ve got a lot of confidence in these guys, how we’ll do and how we’ll bounce back next year.”

Desi Rodriguez on how the loss feels: “I’m just heart-broken, I’m at a loss for words right now. It’s a tough way to end the season. Compared to last season, this is more heart-breaking. I didn’t play my best game today, I didn’t give it my all — I played hard, but I just ended up on the short end of the stick.

Angel Delgado on the officials: “The refs did a really good job. I don’t comment about refs and calls like that — I just play the game … You cannot do nothing about it, you can’t go back in time and change the call. There’s nothing you can do.”

Delgado on whether Moses Kingsley’s jump shot was in scouting report (after saying he made a few lucky ones): “Definitely not. That’s always the game — the game is like that, to make shots. He made a couple of shots, you’ve got to give him credit.”

Khadeen Carrington on the officials: “I feel like the players should decide the game. I’m fine with the travel call on me, but if you’re going to call it on me, just give us the same opportunity.”

Carrington when I asked him about the crowd support: “Those fans are great. I know every one of those people out there, they traveled with us in the preseason. It’s tough seeing them going home early, but I want to thank them for coming out.”