NEWARK — Depending on who you asked, Seton Hall had been somewhere between teetering on the brink of collapse and far from finished during their recent slide.
Now sitting at 15-8 (5-6) with four games queued up at home and Madison Square Garden, have consecutive wins over Providence and Georgetown changed the perception?
After all, Seton Hall had the same exact RPI as last season heading into their dramatic 72-70 overtime win against the Friars.
Now, they have cracked the top-40 and are currently in the fields of most projected brackets, though not by much.
“I think we’ve been on track the whole time,” declared a clearly ill Kevin Willard just minutes shy of midnight in Newark.
“I know our record wasn’t great, but we’ve played the hardest schedule [in conference] as of today according to KenPom. You can look at your schedule and you know where you’re going to have dips and where you’re going to have ups. The hardest thing is when you go on some dips, you have to get back on the ups. More than anything, these last two games have given us a chance to get back on the up.”
It certainly looks like Seton Hall is climbing the slope of one of those “ups” after finding themselves in a relatively low “dip” following a loss at a banged-up Xavier that dropped the Pirates to 3-6 in conference play and seemingly out of the NCAA picture.
Perhaps citing past collapses, Hall fans were quick to judge the projection of this junior-laden team that has just lost one in the form of Jevon Thomas’ departure from the program on Wednesday.
While the criticism was partially justified, it’s a good thing Willard and his guys tuned that talk out.
“We put it up on the board after we lost at Xavier. We put our schedule up, our RPI, all the numbers that everybody is using,” he recalled.
“We felt like we were in good shape if we could somehow get a win at Georgetown and somehow get this win, get back to 5-6. We’re really one game off where I thought we would be considering 6 of the first 10 were on the road. I thought we would steal one road game, I didn’t think we would go 0-5 on the road.”
Seton Hall has done just that and is now eyeing Saturday’s matinee against St. John’s at MSG prior to facing Creighton, Villanova, and then Xavier in consecutive games at Prudential Center over a seven-day span.
“Every game is a must-win,” said Myles Powell, who scored 14 and hit a game-winning runner in the lane to beat Providence.
“We came in with the mindset that we have to get a victory to stay on the bubble.”
Down to bare bones following Thomas pulling the plug on his teammates, Ish Sanogo dealing with a sprained ankle (doubtful for Saturday), and Eron Gordon not 100-percent (flu), it sounds like the added pressure has pushed the right buttons for this team.
“Being desperate, knowing that we have to get these wins, that’s what’s really clicking [now],” said Khadeen Carrington of what has changed for this team over the last two games.
“It wasn’t clicking in a lot of guys heads — they thought we could just pick it up at the end [of the season], but you can’t to that in this league, you’ll get beat up.”
Carrington knows better than anyone as he has been at the forefront of the turnaround after shooting 4-for-31 from three over the five games prior to Georgetown; the Brooklyn native has tallied an efficient 38 points and 8 assists in the two games since including five crucial points in overtime against the Friars.
But it now looks like these Pirates are through with getting beat up and are keen on returning punches over their final seven conference games.
“There’s no time for being tired right now,” said Carrington. “That’s what I say in the huddle.”
“I’m not tired at all.”