Burdened with lofty expectations, No. 23 Seton Hall begins their pursuit for a third-straight NCAA tournament bid when they host Fairleigh Dickinson tonight.
Ranked in the preseason AP poll for the first time since 2000-01, Seton Hall is up against a local foe that knows how to beat them: Fairleigh Dickinson have won half of the last four meetings dating back to 2006.
History aside, these Greg Herenda-led Knights are looking to bounce back from a disappointing 11-19 campaign that followed a rare NCAA tournament bid the year prior.
Gone are two of FDU’s top four scorers, but all-NEC lead guard Darian Anderson will need to be tracked at all times by Khadeen Carrington and Co. as he dropped a game-high 27 in Walsh Gym a year ago, which Carrington matched.
Despite the Knights being picked second in the preseason NEC poll, Seton Hall should be able to take care of business comfortably here against a group that doesn’t boast a ton of experience or explosive talent outside of Anderson.
Three things to watch
Guard play. No, it’s not because I have nothing else to put here. I’m genuinely not sure who I’d choose between Jordan Walker and Eron Gordon as back-up for Carrington and I only saw that dynamic in action against a Division II opponent. Plus, FDU’s best player by far is their lead guard in Darian Anderson. Who will guard him? Carrington can’t really afford to get in foul trouble — a lot at play here.
Willard’s rotation in a game that counts. Now that the result goes into the win or loss column, how will Kevin Willard roll out his troops? He said at media day that he can go about 11 players deep. Sandro Mamukelashvili‘s explosion onto the scene should be monitored along with the rotation of veteran power forwards Mike Nzei and Ish Sanogo, the latter of whom sat out the last exhibition game due to a minor team rules violation along with Myles Powell.
Attendance. It’s a Friday night and a season-opener for a top-25 team, but it’s also a 6:30 tip against a low-major opponent. Jerry Carino has touched on this subject and it’s something I’ve been conscious of for many years now. One would hope that fans show up in droves, but there are still many tickets available outside of the sideline season ticket holder areas. I’l err on the side of disappointment here (it’s not a shock that the student section has sold out, they’ve been very good).
KenPom says: No. 28 Seton Hall 88, No. 259 Fairleigh Dickinson 65 (98%)
Projected FDU starters:
G – Darian Anderson
G – Darnell Edge
G – Jahlil Jenkins
F – Kaleb Bishop
C – Mike Holloway Jr
Projected Seton Hall starters:
PG – Khadeen Carrington
G – Myles Powell
F – Desi Rodriguez
F – Mike Nzei
C – Angel Delgado
TV: FOX Sports 2
Radio: AM 970
Opening line: SH -24.5
Series: SH 12-3