Greenville open practice notebook: Seton Hall focused but loose ahead of Arkansas

Connect with SHUHoops.com:

Greenville, S.C. — Seton Hall got their juices flowing at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena — nicknamed The Well — on Thursday by addressing the massive media presence on site and taking the court for a 40-minute open practice.

After a flight on Wednesday evening which was delayed for three hours due to flight fuel and staffing issues, the team arrived last night while Arkansas was practicing at nearby Furman University.

A trio of juniors in Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez, and Khadeen Carrington took to the podium prior to Kevin Willard before hitting the court at what is a much cozier venue compared to the Pepsi Center last March.

The usual talking points were on display from how team is handling the road to the NCAA tournament this time around compared to a seemingly tense journey to Denver, to dealing with Arkansas’ up-tempo playing style.

Both Willard and his players compared Arkansas to Creighton before the Seton Hall skipper admitted adjusting to the Hogs’ style may not come naturally.

“We’ve kind of gone back to our practice plans when we go against Creighton. A lot of transition defense drills. But I think it’s going to be a little bit of a shocker for us when we first go out there,” disclosed Willard.

 “Most of our league that we’ve played in the second half [of the season] is a grind-it-out style. We haven’t played Creighton since early February.”

As far as team morale goes, they appear visibly looser and less tense than last year, which starts at the top from Willard — who was not afraid to display his displeasure with the trip to Denver.

“I definitely think the vibe is the same, [but] I think our attitude is a little bit different,” said Willard, perhaps projecting.

“Again, last year was such a whirlwind, winning the Big East Tournament and the Selection Show and leaving for Denver that Monday. I don’t think we ever recovered emotionally. Physically I think we were fine, but emotionally I don’t think we ever got back on track.

“This year, with a tough loss to Nova, we’re able to have two days where we kind of can get back and get normal. And we’ve had a normal week of preparation.”

Desi Rodriguez concurred with his coach about the contrast between trips being more mental fatigue than physical.

“Last year we was kind of, maybe I’d say tired, or we were just tired coming off a great win over Villanova. So this year we’re more focused. We got a lot of rest, and we’re just looking to go out and have a great game tomorrow.”

The team gave a relaxed but focused vibe with little things like Khadeen Carrington throwing a zinger Angel Delgado’s way regarding his natural ability to rebound (“I think it’s a gift because if you know him you can’t jump over a stack of newspapers, but he gets every rebound”).

When the team took the court, Delgado and Myles Powell got tangled up during a full-court 5-on-5 game and hit the court hard. Delgado then jokingly tried to intimidate Powell and both exchanged faux trash talk as they helped each other up.

Ish Sanogo — who told Jerry Carino he is 90-percent — showed no signs of injury during open practice and naturally was dripping sweat before any other player. 

Across the table, Arkansas’ guys were laughing and joking with each other when they were presented with questions from members of the media before head coach Mike Anderson was handed the microphone.

Addressing the same topics, Anderson spoke of how key his team’s defensive rebounding will be, the importance of transition buckets, as well as taking advantage of the Hogs’ superior depth.

“He’s a great passer. He’s got those soft hands. … They’re like velcro.” said Anderson of Angel Delgado after speaking about his rebounding ability.

 “They’re one of those teams: They shoot and they go get it!” continued Anderson about Seton Hall’s offensive rebounding.

“They have a knack for it.”

The talking points are established: tempo of play, Angel Delgado vs. Moses Kingsley, how the Hall responds compared to last season.

Kevin Willard and the players can only address these points verbally until a little after noon tomorrow.

Only time will tell if their actions on the court back up their preparation.