Defending Big East Tournament champs Seton Hall will host a historically pesky Fairleigh Dickinson at Walsh Gym on opening night of the 2016-17 season.
The two schools last met in 2013-14 in a stunning 58-54 upset at Prudential Center in which FDU simply outplayed their offensively inept hosts after the Hall scored the opening basket. The Knights have taken two of the last three contests in the series including a 76-71 upset back in 2006 during Bobby Gonzalez’s first season, marking was their first win over Seton Hall since 1968; Seton Hall leads the all-time series 11-3.
At 349th in team experience last season, the defending Northeast Conference champs and preseason favorites are now 263rd in KenPom’s preseason ratings after finishing 280th last season and will only look to build upon their NCAA berth as they return six of their top seven scorers.
Roster subtractions: Marques Townes (transfer; 11.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.7 apg)
Returnees to watch: PG Darian Anderson (15.2 ppg, 3.7 apg, 3.6 rpg), PF Earl Potts Jr (14.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg), PG/SG Stephan Jiggetts (11 ppg, 3.1 apg), Mike Holloway (9.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg)
Additions: Nadi Beciri (13 ppg, 8.6 rpg; JuCo), Kaleb Bishop (St. Anthony G/F)
Only St. Joseph’s (Metuchen) product Marques Townes has departed from the Knights’ 2015-16 squad, leaving Greg Herenda with plenty of tools, including four starters, to tack onto last season’s success.
Point guard and leading scorer Darian Anderson will perhaps be the focal point while combo guard Stephan Jiggetts and forwards Earl Potts Jr. and Mike Holloway all come back after starting 30+ games last season.
A bit undersized and undermanned in the paint last season, FDU will benefit from former Citadel commit and Bergen Catholic (N.J.) star Nadi Beciri joining from the junior college ranks after a 13 ppg and 8.6 rpg year at Harcum College (Pa.) as a freshman last winter.
Despite Seton Hall returning most of their squad from last campaign, this will be the Hall’s first regular season game without Isaiah Whitehead and Derrick Gordon, while the Knights will have missed less of a beat this off-season — so this game shouldn’t be chalked up as a cupcake.
On the other hand, Seton Hall’s foe statistically wasn’t that good last season despite being a conference champion. In addition to be ranked 280th in KenPom, FDU was one of the worst defensive teams in the country (334th), which was put on display during their 96-65 shellacking at the hands of Florida Gulf Coast during their NCAA tournament play-in game.
Despite the 19-point Pirate win predicted by KenPom, I suspect this game could turn out to be an exciting or perhaps dangerous home-opener for Seton Hall, with a sold out Walsh Gym adding to the atmosphere and occasion for the Pirates’ return home after a successful 2015-16 campaign.
Last five meetings:
2013-14 — 58-54 Fairleigh Dickinson (Prudential Center)
2008-09 — 101-70 Seton Hall (Prudential Center)
2006-07 — 76-71 Fairleigh Dickinson (Prudential Center)
2005-06 — 65-57 Seton Hall (Continental Airlines)
2001-02 — 95-73 Seton Hall (Continental Airlines)