Seton Hall’s 2014-15 non-conference schedule a slight upgrade

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A look at how Seton Hall’s 2014-15 non-conference schedule panned out and a brief look toward next season.

Way back at the beginning of last October, I previewed Seton Hall’s non-conference schedule and took a shot at predicting how each team would slot into a few RPI brackets that I use to judge non-league scheduling.

In the aftermath of Seton Hall’s poor 2013-14 season that saw the team post an inflated record before entering the Big East, I published a post-mortem look at the Hall’s incredibly weak non-conference, a trend that has taken a turn for the better under Kevin Willard; his team’s faced non-conference slates that ranked 254th, 318th, and 344th by KenPom between the 2011-12 and 2013-14 seasons (I wrote more on this here). Also recall that Willard judged the Bobby Gonzalez inherited 2010-11 non-conference schedule that was rated 81st by KenPom as too strong for his liking.

As projected, Seton Hall’s non-league lineup this season was an improvement over the last few years, but not by a ton. It finished 230th in KenPom and 188th in RPI. Undoubtedly, things out of Willard’s control affected their numbers, most notably facing Gardner-Webb (146th in RPI) and Illinois State (62) at the Paradise Jam instead of Clemson (106) and LSU (57) or Old Dominion (46). Still, this was always going to be a decent-but-not-great schedule that hinged on a few key tests.

Now a look back at how I thought Seton Hall’s opponents would finish RPI-wise:

RPI 1-50 (Great schedule): @ Wichita State, @ Georgia
RPI 51-100 (Good schedule): vs. Clemson, George Washington (-), vs. LSU (-)
RPI 101-200 (Neutral): vs. Nevada, Saint Peter’s, Illinois State (+), Rutgers (-)
RPI 201-250 (Bad): vs. Gardner-Webb, Mount St. Mary’s (-), Mercer, @ South Florida
RPI 251+ (RPI killer): Maine

At the top, Wichita State, Georgia, Clemson, GW, and LSU all finished as I expected, while Nevada really underperformed (their head coach was fired as a result) at 306th. Illinois State (62nd), one of my pre-season darkhorse teams, nearly earned an NCAA bid but lost in the Missouri Valley tournament final after playing well this season despite injuries.

Moving closer to the bottom of my brackets, Rutgers finished toward the lower end of the 100-200 range, Gardner-Webb (146) was a slight RPI surprise and Saint Peter’s (233) disappointed. Mount St. Mary’s (188) finished just above the tier I slotted them in and the trio of Mercer, South Florida and Maine all finished sub-200.

Altogether, I wasn’t really too surprised with how any of these schools panned out tier-wise, even Nevada, who needed a ton of production from junior college players to replace lost talent. Seton Hall didn’t wind up playing them, but I underrated LSU a bit pre-season.

Unlike past seasons, I thought this schedule fit Seton Hall’s young team well. The opponents grew gradually tougher from the onset, culminating in a tough test against Illinois State at the Paradise Jam, which was followed by another solid hurdle in George Washington at home. The two biggest barometers in the Hall’s non-conference schedule, road trips to Georgia and Wichita State, proved to be accurate gauges as to how this team would perform in the Big East, at both a micro- and macro-level.

Offensive ineptitude did the Pirates in, more noticeably in their contest against Georgia as the Hall didn’t really show up, finishing with a dismal .68 points per possession. I’m not sure how much playing poor teams in Rutgers and South Florida just prior to big games should factor in since the team did well against St. John’s after playing a horrible Maine club.

Further, let’s not forget that Willard regretted how he had the team prepare for the game against Georgia; they stayed in Tampa for an extra day and saw the Orlando Magic play instead of immediately traveling to Athens.

Looking toward next season (yes, already!), Seton Hall will face a lot of familiar teams in Georgia, South Florida, Wichita State in return home-and-home series games, while they travel to Rutgers and a Kethan Savage-less George Washington. The home game against the Shockers adds a marquee home contest that hasn’t been seen in Prudential Center or Continental Airlines Arena since the Louis Orr days (2001-02 Illinois, 2002-03 Louisville, 2004-05 Texas).

To kick off the season, the Pirates may compete in the Gavitt Games (Big Ten-Big East series), which will be announced late-spring, and will head to Charleston, S.C. for the Charleston Classic. Bradley, George Mason, Long Beach State, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Towson and Virginia compose a pretty solid field. I’d expect a few local schools to be added to complete the 2015-16 schedule.

  • Greg

    Hi Chris, just wondering if Wichita State or Georgia will be coming to Newark next season since the Pirates travelled this past season? Were they planned as home and home or one and done? if not, any major schools on the radar to play in Newark before conference play?

    • Both will travel to the Rock next season (2015-16) to complete home-and-home deals.

      Aside from the teams I listed above, I don’t expect any big names to be added to the schedule. Maybe a late road trip to a high-major if the Hall isn’t selected to play in the Gavitt Games.

  • VinBick

    Want the Pirates to play the New York City and Philly schools every year. Princeton should be on the schedule every year, too. Seton Hall and the Rock require games that will attract folks!

  • fouline

    Chris, congrats on the move…. But after 4 years of Willard & Company’s OCSs, it really seems that he’s more interested in burnishing his win record than in helping the team develop. The OC record as gaudy as its been has never helped us get the team anywhere except a grave in the irrelevancy cemetery. I know it’s supposed to help team building and get players to work on their game but that obviously hasn’t worked out. Also financially by scheduling big name programs attendance will shy-rocket at the Rock. It’s a great opportunity for the team to see first hand how a great college teams go about their game. It’s an opportunity for the fans to see a Duke or UCLA. And it’s a great opportunity to make $$$$$$$$$.

    • Gotta agree with you, but the trend includes Gonzo. Full list of top-100 teams that Seton Hall has hosted since 2006: 2006-07: (Penn, 97th); 2009-10: (Temple, 15th); 2010-11: (Richmond, 40th); 2011-12: (Mercer, 88th); 2012-13: (Stony Brook, 52nd); 2014-15: (GW, 74th)

      All mid- or low-majors, no real marquee games. Wichita State and perhaps Georgia (they lose 2 senior forwards) next season will change that.

      I know some season ticket holders purchase, but intentionally miss handfuls of non-conf. games because it’s still cheaper than to buy individuals or mini-plans. This at least was the case in the old Big East days when big draws like Syracuse would come to town.

      No one cares about Fairleigh Dickinson, Columbia, past Monmouth teams (they’re on the rise), etc. At least not when they are sprinkled in amongst other weak teams as opposed to Wichita States.

  • iratepirate

    I was “okay” with our scheduling last year, though I think we need to ditch USF and upgrade one cupcake to a more reasonable mid-major. How about we ditch USF for Temple, BC, PSU or even Memphis. I don’t think any of those schools are good enough to snub us as not good enough. They are all geographically closer which makes things easier and cheaper. No Mercer or Maine. Pick up one of the following: Iona, Fordham, Stony Brook.

    As someone else said, Princeton should be a yearly game, or the Hardwood classic should expand to include Princeton and maybe Rider. That would put the 4 top NJ teams into one little tournament. Maybe revolve the yearly match ups but have a winner’s bracket and loser bracket so that you get two games out of that per year. It should be cheap and easy and ensure two neutral or better games. Cut out one cupcake from the schedule or replace what would be the Mercer game.

    We need to keep the true cupcakes to two games a year. FDU, Monmouth, Mount St. Mary’s, St. Francis, St. Peter’s, Maine etc. Pick two. That’s it. No one wants to come to the Rock for those games, so limiting them is important.

    • Little outdated, but as I linked to below, here’s my non-conference scheduling cheat sheet as of 2013. It pertains to a lot of what you’ve posted: http://www.southorangejuice.com/2013/3/19/4123478/seton-halls-non-conference-scheduling-cheat-sheet

      I agree with your general philosophy, but can’t say I agree re: Mercer numbers-wise. Maybe from a PR, attendance perspective, but Seton Hall got two tough top-100 Mercer teams out of that 2-for-1.

      Definitely agree on Maine, etc. USF was probably more relationship-based (Antiguas) than anything. Fully agree on Stony Brook and was disappointed when that series wasn’t renewed.

      • iratepirate

        On the Mercer point, I liked the opponent. I agree that 75 to 175rpi is a sweet spot for getting lucky with a couple of top 100 wins that boost your RPI overall and make your schedule stronger. I just don’t understand why we can’t play geographically closer teams that fall into that category (Stony Brook, Iona, Temple, Yale, Umass, Richmond). I feel like people would be more excited to go to the game and it should help travel costs since none of these are more than a few hours drive away.