Post-Providence, is Seton Hall back on track?

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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.”

  • Andrew Herbst

    I think we are back on track. We’ve shown a lot of gritiness in last two games. We are playing as a cohesive unit. Our d has improved. Haven’t given up if we were down late in the game.

  • iratepirate

    Easiest article headline question to answer in quite some time. NO. No team that wants to get in the tournament and is 2/3rds through the season with a LOSING record is “on track”.

    “I think we’ve been on track the whole time,” declared a clearly ill Kevin Willard just minutes shy of midnight in Newark.”

    That’s just wrong. We are in this situation because we frankly haven’t beaten anyone worth a damn all conference season. It’s fine to show optimism and say “We are coming together”, but so far we’ve been teetering on the brink of a lost season.

    If you disagree, than answer this question:

    If we lose to St. John’s on Saturday, where do we get 4 wins to even just bring us to 9-9 (the lowest possible win total for a chance at the tournament)?

    Answer: We’d have to almost run the table on every team left in the schedule (4-2 with Nova and @Butler left). No way to describe that other than: teetering on the brink.

    Beat St. John’s on Saturday and we can talk about being on track.

    • Carl MacDonald

      Even with a win at msg and at 6-6….would still need to beat Creighton and then Nova at home for tourney talk and being back “on track” good post though agree 100%

      • PadrePirate

        Let’s just beat Johnnies first and worry about the rest later. At 6-6, we could split the last 6 and still be in the bubble discussion. True that even splitting that last 6 would necessarily include at least one top-25 W.

        • SHU95

          Couldn’t agree more, let’s get by SJU first…

        • Carl MacDonald

          Johnnies are going to be upset about getting blown out last game…and have had a week off. Won’t be an easy W.

  • Just added the rest of the game photos! new ones are on page 2 and beyond.

  • shufaninva

    Say what you want about Willard, and god knows I have. I know he has his weaknesses, and I am all about piling it on when he deserves it. However, this guy is so good at keeping the ship from tipping over too early. The crowd was really starting to get on him during the huge Friar run in the first half, but he stayed calm, and it kept his players calm. It could have fallen apart fast last night. This team has shown true grit even in face of hardship and scoring droughts. He knew they would get through that tough spell and be fine. I really love having a coach that stays so calm in the face of trouble. It’s just a shame that the recruiting and in game X’s and O’s haven’t been up to par…but I do think he has come a long way as a coach since being hired.
    His calmness and confidence in his players is one thing that definitely rubbed off on him from Pitino.

    • Those pair of 3s (were both from the far corner opposite of SH bench?) really helped stop the Friar run. Crowd was booing 10 minutes in.

      Interesting because I said in preview about handling runs better. Not sure if this was better than the 15-0 run at the Dunk, but… it’s notable.

    • SHU95

      I like your post, but I do think people are a little harsh on Willard on the recruiting. Is he as good a recruiter as PJ or Tommy Amaker?…No, but aside from those two, he is getting far better players (people) than Gonzo, Orr, & Blanney (yes Blanney got Sha, but overall I’d give the nod to Willard over him as well). Also, if IW had stayed one more year (which most indications were he was) people would not be criticizing his recruiting. As far as XO’s, agree he is about average at best, with his strength being on the Defensive end. I also like his demeanor for the most part and the fact that he stays calm I think really rubs off well on his players most of the time. Recruiting is ongoing, so lackluster performance in 2017 (not adding a good PG) & wiffing on the talented 2018 class full of good local prospects would diminish what he has done to this point no doubt.

      • shufaninva

        The recruiting issue as I see it, is that this group of Soph’s are (quickly turning into were) so not to BE level, that we have a huge hole in building a program. I think Willard is bringing in better character guys and better academic kids, which is great, but we all don’t want to be that program that has a few decent years, followed up by a lot of re-build. We want solid kids each year, with a few really strong years mixed in. The Soph’s are/were a bust, and we only really seem to have Powell from this year. We shall see if Gordon can develop into more, but with only Cale as a real strong recruit next year, the pieces are a bit lackluster to me. Not horrible by any stretch, but if you whiff on an entire class, as it seems we did with the Sophs, you better have a top class in one of the next 2 years or so to maintain a program. Some coaches seem to do more with less, with Sean Miller being an example that comes to mind first. At Xavier, he turned very low rated guys into very good teams, and that is why he is at a top notch program now at Arizona. I have little to no confidence that our coaching staff can get more out of our guys than they have in them already. They definitely should get credit for getting exact potential out of guys, which some coaches can’t even do that, but getting more than that….only special coaches can do that, and Willard and his staff don’t seem to have that gift, even though Willard did learn under a man that definitely has that. When Pitino got to Louisville, the talent wasn’t there right away, but he got more out of those guys than almost anyone could have. He got creative, and found success even before he was able to recruit his type of player. That is why I always feel that a great coach is better than a great recruiter. I think Coach K is a so so recruiter, but it doesn’t matter. He is such a good coach, that he coaches up his talent, recruits see that, and they want to play for him, even though he doesn’t make huge efforts to recruit. He doesn’t need to. The program is strong enough. Now I am not saying we should fire Willard just because he isn’t Coach K quality, but it just seems to me that Willard and his staff are a bit limited, and only the future will tell if they have hit their ceiling as a staff. I hope not, because if they have, recruits will see that, and our juniors will be the only top ten recruiting class they are able to nab.

        • SHU95

          Agree whole heartedly about the current (or actually lack there of now that most are gone) soph class. I still say he is doing a much better job than Gonzo (a collassal embarrassment in every way imagineable), Orr, & Blanney in that he has gotten some good players to come here and the program is relevant again, at least for the time being. It sounds like he & the staff are out there pounding the pavement, all the kids we target mention SHU as schools that come to mind when asked “What Schools are pursuing U the hardest?”. I get it, it only matters if a few of them come here, but U can’t say it will be from lack of effort if they don’t. The next 12 months will tell the story of Willard’s tenure at SHU, does he add a good PG to 2017 & get 3 or 4 really solid local recruits from the rich 2018 class? Time will tell, I actually don’t think U & I differ all that much in our opinion, I think there is room for improvement for sure, but he has shown more than many of his predecessors in that regard. Also, very much agree with your points about overachieving and the development of players.

          • ThePirateFan

            I agree. There’s also the fact that Willard and co are working with what they have. Maybe they don’t get the best players every year, but how much better would a replacement do? They’d be working within the same limitations that this staff is working in.

            Don’t get me wrong, great coaches find undervalued players and get the pieces to fit (Few, Smart, Stevens come to mind), but university limitations are big. Wasn’t upgraded facilities a big boost that helped Willard land the current junior class?

          • Louie Dee

            I agree with most of what everyone is saying here. However, something that seems to get overlooked is the Seton Hall Brand. I have to imagine that the SHU brand plays a big part on the decision making for a high school basketball player. The University itself should invest more in marketing the SHU name. Many people I encounter never heard of my university. Esteban has done a good job of improving the rankings (US News 118), and academics but there is still a lot of room for improvement. Hopefully, we crack the top 100.

            PS. I do not understand why they don’t have better SHU apparel. It’s cheap, effective and creates a tribe of devoted alumni, students and employees who become brand ambassadors everywhere they go in the community. It is a small investment for more business.

        • hallstorm

          I think it’s hard to argue that Krzyzewski isn’t one of the best recruiters. Since McDonald’s started awarding All-American’s, Duke and North Carolina are tied with 71–the highest in the NCAA. I actually think he’s just the opposite with recruiting and coaching. He has 5 titles–yes–but he also has 4 first round exits and 5 second round exits. I actually think he wins a bunch, but loses quite a few also.

          I agree with Pitino and Miller and you can add McDermott, Marshall, Few and Andy Enfield (FGCU and now USC) and up until this year Shaka Smart. I would also put some past guys up there like Chaney.

        • ThePirateFan

          Hard to knock a poor sophomore recruiting class when the junior class had 6 that were big East caliber players. Nobody borderline would want to come to Seton Hall and sit until their senior year. The best Willard could do was say, “We need a role player, and that can be you. You won’t get a ton of minutes, but your skillset is what we need and you can play in the big east. If you want to be a standout, go to the MAC.” In this case it was spot up shooters with not much else to offer (Singh, Soffer).

  • hallstorm

    Disappointing to see that Angel doesn’t get the nationwide recognition he deserves. I see the Naismith top 30 list and he isn’t on it. Players like Donovan Mitchell from Louisville (I know an SHU recruiting target), Ethan Happ, Juwan Evans and Monte Morris are on the list and none are statistically much better (if at all with Happ and Mitchell). At least Louisville and Wisconsin are top 25 calibre teams.

  • fouline

    Right now we’re a mediocre team good at contending with other mediocre teams. I don’t know at this point what will help us beat a better than mediocre team. That said – the win was nice.

    • VinBick

      This is NOT a mediocre team. Every Big East team, including DePaul, is better than a huge chuck of teams throughout the landscape coast to coast. Our out of conference record of 10-2 vs some good teams is proof of same. Check the records of those teams today. The Big East teams beat up on each other over the eighteen games in conference play that inflates losses.

      • ThePirateFan

        Yup, the big East is a small, powerful conference. The only weak team is DePaul. Outlets like to count bids by conference because the high counts are sexy, but if a conference has 14 teams who cares.

      • fouline

        We’re 5&6 in the BE.The teams we beat are the teams below us in the standings. The myth of the BE is that we beat each other up so the records are skewed. But if you look at the BE failure rate in the NCAAs, a lot of BE teams don’t make it out of the first round. And that’s not me saying that, it’s the Bball analysts. We’re mediocre.

  • Matty P

    My biggest question is how long will Delgado be able to shoulder the load down low. He’s played 394 out of a possible 455 minutes throughout the 11 BE games and most of the time he wasn’t on the court was is thanks to the couple of blowout games (Creighton, DePaul, and Nova – 31 total mins where he wasn’t on the court). I saw quotes that Willard has been giving him rest in practice, but that might be the only hope of keeping him somewhat fresh and playing at such a high level.

    Regarding the lesser amount of practice time for Delgado it might be the reason he’s shooting a higher percentage from the line. I would imagine that might be one of the few things the coaches have him doing often since he only needs to stand there which doesn’t take much energy.

  • Matty P

    Awesome job by the school, coaching staff, and players for making an amazing experience for Cody, the 13 year old with Leukemia. Proud that the university was able to give this kid an experience of a lifetime after everything he’s had to go through. Here’s an article from Jerry Carino on the good deed that SHU did: http://www.app.com/story/sports/college/2017/02/09/win-and-good-deed-seton-hall/97682478/

    • Funny comment from KW post-game, paraphrasing “i turned to Will in overtime and he was tired and said ‘i cant do overtime’ and i said ‘me neither Will’ “

  • Coach Mike

    They made their free throws, so they won. Or it would be over like when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor. They are a tough as nails group, very good defensively, but not very good shooters. I’d take a bunch like them any time….glad to be a season ticket holder – if they make their free throws!

  • LBP

    Don’t know if this Team has ever found its Track–they fight hard and are a fun watch ( if you think roller-coasters are fun).
    Trying to enjoy each Game -especially watching a truly amazing performance from Angel Delgado. Want to appreciate him–even if this is not his last year ( which I believe it may be).
    This Year has reinforced my appreciation for Point Guards–despite surrounding Talent, without a Floor Leader, any Team is going to be like Seton Hall–hoping Talent on its own comes together to save the Games.
    Despite the above, I still really like this Team–it is one of my all-Time favorites.

  • Joe Schmoe

    Back on track? Sure. As long as we all agree that “the track” is as follows:

    W @ Johnnies

    W two of three at home vs

    Crieghton
    Nova
    Xavier

    W @ DePaul

    W vs Georgetown.

    If the above derails…. There is a “Hail Mary/Our Father” scenario…..that is SHU can not fall below its current 6th ranking in conference standings, which will secure a first round bye in the BET. Then we hope for a solid three W’s in three nights…

    • Joe Schmoe

      In 2015 Xavier went 9-9 in conference, was the sixth seed in the BET, played their way into the BE championship game and received an at-large bid from the committee. They ultimately went to the sweet sixteen. There is still hope….

      • Joe Schmoe

        And in 2016 Creighton finished 9-9 in conference, was the sixth seed, but lost to SHU in their first game, then went to the NIT… a tall order…

        • Matty P

          I think it’s difficult to compare Creighton from last year to SHU this year. Creighton ended the season with a 103 RPI and had a SOS of 95 vs this current SHU team would most likely have better numbers at the end of the season since their current RPI is 37 and SOS is 39. Also Creighton was above .500 throughout the conference schedule and lost 4 of 5 to end at .500 vs the current SHU team has been below .500 all conference schedule and would have to go at a minimum of 4-3 to end the season to be at .500.