Following a pair of relatively easy home games, Seton Hall heads to the Midwest to take on Iowa in the Pirates’ introduction to the Gavitt Games.
The Hall has won their first two games against Fairleigh Dickinson and Central Connecticut by an average margin of 22.5 points, passing with flying colors. Kevin Willard’s team started both games on the front foot and even though they eased off the pedal at Walsh Gym and Prudential Center, they were aggressive and effective on both ends when required.
Strength of opposition has made it unfair to slap any sort of conclusions on this team yet, but they seem ahead of the curve compared to last year when they were unconvincing against Dartmouth and Wagner prior to the Charleston Classic, albeit both schools were more talented than FDU and CCSU.
Despite the apparent improvement, Willard said post-CCSU that his guys have plenty of work yet to do, naturally.
“We have a lot to improve on. The biggest thing, we have to figure out how to create turnovers. We’re not creating enough turnovers. That’s two teams in a row that haven’t turned the ball over (19 total). That’s why we got really good defensively last year,” said Willard.
“I think Isaiah Whitehead and Derrick Gordon — Madison [Jones] is a much better on ball defender than those guys — but he’s much more a solid player, which I don’t have a problem with. The difference with Derrick and Isaiah, they knew how to gamble and create steals and get some easy buckets. That’s what I’m struggling with right now, we need to find a way to get easy buckets in transition.”
While it’s still early, Seton Hall has scored a total of 16 points in transition and are only +2 in this category thus far. On a related note, the Pirates are playing at the 222nd fastest pace this year compared to 91st last season.
Not surprisingly, Seton Hall has looked most dangerous when FDU and CCSU were trying to make comebacks and the play was a little frantic. Freshman guard Myles Powell registered two impressive outbursts, while a series of impressive defensive stops against CCSU energized the team and enabled fast breaks that sealed the result; Willard has yet to put on a full-court press as hinted at pre-season.
Ranked 54th in KenPom, Iowa’s Carver-Hawkeye Arena will be the third venue that the Pirates have played in in as many games and will also mark the first true road test (no, the NCAA tournament was *not* a road game!) since a Butler/DePaul road trip during the first week of March.
The Big East is 2-1 in the Gavitt Games with Butler 7-point favorites when they host Northwestern tonight. Tomorrow, Ohio State travels to Providence and DePaul receives a visit from Rutgers, meaning the conference challenge could be decided by this game — or earlier.
Fran McCaffrey’s bunch are also 2-0 and have also played weak opposition in sub-300 Kennesaw State and Savannah State, whom they dispatched by an average margin of 24.5 points. Sounds familiar.
As previewed here, the Hawkeyes lose a lot from their squad that bowed out to Villanova in the NCAAs, but they do return lengthy guard/wing Peter Jok, who is a Preseason All-Big Ten team selection, made the pre-season Wooden Award top-50 list, and has scored 40 points over their first two games.
Besides Jok, Iowa has received some help from younger guys: Freshman point guard Jordan Bohannon has tallied 12 points and 9 assists, redshirt sophomore Brady Ellingson scored 23 against Savannah State, and freshman forward Cordell Pemsl is averaging 14 ppg and 7.5 rpg; Iowa is one of the youngest teams in the country.
Between their size (26th), tempo (19th) and plethora of options (1st in bench minutes), Iowa looks like they will be quite the early test for Seton Hall.
“Their length is really impressive. The way Fran plays, he gets up and down. We’re going to have to be strong with transition defense,” warned Kevin Willard.
“I keep forgetting this kid’s name — [Peter] Jok — I’m sure after the game I won’t forget it. He’s a heck of a player, he has the ultimate green light. He has great range, he scores in all different manners and ranges. We haven’t played a road game in a while, so it’s going to be a great chance to get our feet wet on the road against a good team.”
For Seton Hall’s players, the goal heading into Iowa City may be a little less politically correct than getting their feet wet.
The two standout workhorses driving this team so far are juniors Angel Delgado and Khadeen Carrington, all eyes will be on this pair to lead the team to a third straight victory on Thursday night.
Running with the baton that was passed on by Isaiah Whitehead, you can’t reasonably ask for much more than what Carrington has done thus far.
The Brooklyn native has scored 45 points (15-22) on just 22 shots, he’s only missed one of ten three-pointers, and six assists have been dished to just one turnover as an auxiliary point guard behind Madison Jones.
Despite great numbers, Carrington always seems to fly under the radar and his 27-point opening night performance even felt like a ‘quiet’ night, at least to me. Perhaps it’s Khadeen’s level and poised demeanor that will help the younger guys through a tough night in Iowa.
“It’s going to be a loud arena,” he told me post-CCSU after circling Iowa at Big East Media Day. “Guys are going to be a little nervous. It’s my job to keep everybody calm — I’m going to do a good job of that.”
Down low, Delgado has been unstoppable (17-of-23) now that Willard intends on the offense going through him, while his rebounding numbers are notable but normal for the Dominican: Angel has pulled in 11 from the offensive glass and 19 from the defensive glass.
His free throws (2-of-9) and turnovers (six) still need to be monitored, but all other vitals are off the charts for Seton Hall’s anchor in the paint.
Perhaps the dominant but marginally sloppy Delgado was projecting when he told me the following about what is at stake on Thursday against Iowa.
“Like Coach said: It’s over. It’s over. [We’ve been] Playing around a lot… it’s time to go. It’s time to make people respect us, because again they didn’t give us a lot of respect. We have to show people we deserve it.”
KenPom says: No. 41 Seton Hall 76, No. 54 Iowa 78 (43%)
Projected Seton Hall starters
PG – Madison Jones (4.5 ppg, 6.5 apg)
SG – Khadeen Carrington (22.5 ppg, 3 apg)
SF – Desi Rodriguez (12 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.5 apg)
F – Ish Sanogo (6.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg)
F – Angel Delgado (18 ppg, 15 rpg)
Projected Iowa starters
G – Christian Williams (2.5 ppg, 4.5 apg)
G – Nicholas Baer (9.5 ppg, 4 apg)
G – Peter Jok (20 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg)
F – Dom Uhl (5.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg)
F – Tyler Cook (10 ppg, 7 rpg)
Time: 9pm ET
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 970 AM (Gary Cohen, Dave Popkin)
Opening line: Seton Hall +1.5