A full week of rest awaits Seton Hall after getting wringed out by St. John’s on Saturday at the Garden. Kevin Willard must re-enter the lab and start conjuring a solution before the N.C.A.A.’s slip out of reach.
For a second, let’s not get too dramatic.
Even a loss at Georgetown would be correctable and then some via two upsets of Marquette and Villanova.
But it’s the implication of implosion that puts doubt in that theory of optimism.
For all intents and purposes, Georgetown should be considered a knock-out game.
Win and go home. A conference tournament final.
Don’t tell the team they can get placed in a murderer’s row of a loser bracket that demands wins over the Golden Eagles and Wildcats and probably a win at the Big East Tournament.
There should be no looking past Saturday like Seton Hall did to Xavier.
Who knows what the Pirates were looking at for the first ten minutes at the Garden.
Kevin Willard said he’s going to change the starting lineup heading into Georgetown after doing so on a temporary basis just three times this season. He hinted at a backcourt shakeup after citing Quincy McKnight and Myles Powell’s combined six assist to 13 turnover count against St. John’s.
But the backcourt isn’t the only symptom that is ailing Seton Hall. Here’s a few ideas that I’ve come up with to right the ship.
Getting Anthony Nelson involved more
This is probably one of the most common things I’ve seen commented on whether it’s Twitter, talking to people, or in the comments section.
One thing discussed is Nelson’s pure point guard nature compared to Quincy McKnight, and that Nelson turns the ball over less.
Nelson has a higher turnover percentage than McKnight (25.4 vs 23.5), although it’s not a perfect comparison. That said, McKnight is a much better defender so it handicaps Willard a bit in how he can deploy Nelson. But that’s why he gets paid the big bucks.
Outside the box solution? Play three guards (Nelson-Q-Powell) with McKnight given more of a green light to shoot and Powell more aggressive. Nelson does find guys at a slightly higher rate (30 vs 27 ARate) than McKnight and with a better assist:turnover ratio (2.08 vs 1.53).
To limit McKnight’s turnovers, don’t ask too much
I don’t objectively know to what degree Willard is pushing McKnight outside of his skill-set by making him play more point guard, but let’s say he is somewhat. That’s entirely fair to say.
Maybe pull back on that a little bit, give some of the facilitating duties to Powell and/or Nelson, and let McKnight focus on what he does best.
Slashing, up-tempo defense, and the occasional jumper; I’d like to see him shoot more high percentage shots.
Managing Powell’s minutes and role
I don’t know what can be done about general fatigue at this point of the season, it’s a bit too late for that, but a week of rest and perhaps a fresh role for Powell will inject some life and make him more like his second half form, for an entire game.
Three guards? Powell with more time at point guard? More off-ball screen action?
Something fresh. Big East opponents are used to the current version of Powell and Seton Hall.
Dictate more to teams. Be more unpredictable.
As alluded to by the aforementioned need for something fresh, Seton Hall can become more unpredictable in general.
More Willard specials of rotating between three different defenses — including a press — on three consecutive possessions.
Out-of-timeout plays that don’t result in consecutive blocks. See: St. John’s in second half.
In general, Seton Hall should dictate their style onto opponents more than reacting. Or lack of reacting.
While Taurean Thompson’s shot selection hasn’t always been great, he was at least unpredictable aside from the guarantee of an isolation play for the stretch four.
Seton Hall needs to be more dangerous from the perimeter
The Pirates now sport the nation’s 335th best block rate (12.3%), as helped by St. John’s 12 swats on Saturday.
A cause? Too much driving into a congested paint. Too predictable.
What are McKnight and Powell going to do when they need a bucket? Drive. Not drive-and-kick.
Here are the team’s three-point numbers. They are 33% as a whole (247th) and 32.8% in conference play (9th).
Cale (41-106, 38.7%)
Powell (78-222, 35.1%)
Sandro (25-73, 34%)
McKnight (18-54, 33%)
Maybe Cale and McKnight deserve some more looks, but in general, the quality of the attempts can be better and more creatively designed; Seton Hall is 6th in Big East play with a 52.7 A:FGM ratio.