Seton Hall returns home from a lesson-filled loss at Nebraska in the Gavitt Games to face Atlantic 10 front-runner Saint Louis in their Prudential Center opener.
Along with most of the Big East at the Gavitt Games, the Pirates (1-1) were taken to task in Nebraska and never truly threatened for the final quarter of the game before falling 80-57, their largest loss since running into a Villanova buzz saw (76-46) on the road in January of 2017.
In danger of sporting their first losing record since March of 2014 (15-16) and first during non-league play since Kevin Willard’s inaugural season in 2010-11, the Hall will battle Saint Louis (3-0) for the first time since the early 70s.
Now in former Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford’s third season, the Bilikens are primarily composed of four upperclassmen transfers: starting point guard Tramaine Isabell (Missouri, Drexel), guard Dion Wiley (Maryland), forward DJ Foreman (Rutgers), and forward Javon Bess (Michigan State).
These transplants — Seton Hall was a finalist for Isabell in May — have helped boost Saint Louis’ experience and are the only seniors on the team, the rest are sophomores and freshmen, led by Jordan Goodwin and Hasahn French.
Picked first in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll ahead of Saint Joseph’s and Davidson, Saint Louis has won all three of their games but hasn’t impressed anyone, beating SE Missouri State, Troy, and North Alabama by an average of eight points; Troy came down to the wire.
Ford spoke about how his team has a long way to go at Atlantic 10 media day, which makes sense given their team’s composition. It seems fair that this match-up with Seton Hall would be a lot juicier in March when both teams have developed more.
For Seton Hall, this will be their final tune-up before they head back out west, further this time, to take on Grand Canyon in the opening round of the Wooden Legacy on Thursday night in California.
Three things to correct
Seton Hall’s offensive efficiency and balance isn’t quite there yet. Symptoms include: too much reliance on Myles Powell, a core of guards (Powell, McKnight, Cale, Nelson) who haven’t quite sorted out their roles yet, overall shot selection. Side effects: Dismal assist-to-turnover ratio, 2-16 from three, players forcing things.
Willard & Co. need to get Myles Cale, Quincy McKnight, and Taurean Thompson in the flow. All are talented, but they aren’t producing at the levels required, not counting Cale’s impressive showing in the New Haven exhibition. It can be said that Cale is getting used to being a starter and Thompson an impact sixth-man, but that can only be touted for so long and does not excuse a net-negative effort from the trio on Wednesday night: 3 pts, 3 rebs, 1 ast, 7 TOs, 11 fouls in 52 minutes of action. That is a massive void.
Points in the miscellaneous areas were hard to come by against Nebraska. Just two points off turnovers, six on the fast break and ten second chance points, compared to 14, ten, and ten against Wagner. A regression to 13-20 from the free throw line. Seton Hall will need to do better against an ever slower-paced Saint Louis who will look to play a game in the 60s; Travis Ford’s last four teams have played at a sub-300 tempo.
Gavitt Games Recap
When you go 3-5 and your three wins are against Penn State, Rutgers, and Illinois — you know you lost the Gavitt Games. Credit to DePaul for beating a decent Nittany Lions team and to St. John’s for taking care of business at the RAC, but that’s all the credit there is to give.
Xavier, Seton Hall, Villanova, Marquette, and Creighton lost by an average of 18.2 points including a keystone embarrassment of Villanova on their home floor. The Big East will only have one ranked team come Monday (Nova) and they will be in the double-digits, off the top of my head I would guess it’s been awhile since the Big East hasn’t had a team in the top-ten.
The conference also fell to fifth behind the SEC in KenPom conference ratings, but are still way ahead of the Pac-12.
While some are pushing back and saying the season is early, which is true, I also remember the warranted Big East hype train over the past couple seasons when they got off to flying starts in the non-conference. Both can be applauded and jeered at equally.
Georgetown followed up on their surprising but not memorable win at Illinois with a loss to Loyola Marymount last night while Butler took down Ole Miss. Providence plays South Carolina today and Xavier clashes with Auburn on Monday — those are two chances to help sway public opinion.
KenPom says: No. 52 Seton Hall 72, No. 81 Saint Louis 66
Series History: SH 0-2 (1957, 1972)
Projected Saint Louis starters
PG – Tramaine Isabell
G – Jordan Goodwin
G/F – Javon Bess
F – DJ Foreman
F – Hasahn French
Projected Seton Hall starters
PG – Quincy McKnight
G – Myles Powell
G/F – Myles Cale
F – Sandro Mamukelashvili
F – Mike Nzei
TV: 8 ET, FOX Sports 2
Opening line: Seton Hall -6