Kevin Willard continuing trend of strong Seton Hall non-conference slates

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We’ve come a long way since Kevin Willard sniveled about a tough 2010-11 non-league lineup assembled by Bobby Gonzalez.

Meetings with national powerhouses UMKC, Eastern Washington, Longwood, Maine, NJIT, and North Carolina A&T would then saturate the schedule over subsequent seasons.

Last pre-season, however, provided the luxury of writing about how Seton Hall was ready to embrace a tough schedule, and it looks like the Hall — thought by most to be entering a rebuilding year — is about to test themselves again with the recent news that they have tacked a road game at Maryland onto an already strong schedule.

For a little bit of context: Seton Hall’s 2013-14 non-conference schedule was ranked 345th by KenPom.

With Kentucky and Louisville visiting the area, Rutgers and Saint Louis on the docket, and tough away-from-home games in NCAA-hopeful Nebraska (Gavitt Games) and the Wooden Legacy, 2013-14 scheduling feels so long ago now.

2010-11: 73rd
2011-12: 258th
2012-13: 320th
2013-14: 345th
2014-15: 239th
2015-16: 247th
2016-17: 218th
2017-18: 157th

Above is a listing of each KenPom non-conference rating over the Willard era. You will notice the tough first year that featured a Fran Dunphy buzz-saw on the road at Temple in Willard’s first game, as well as neutral site games against Alabama, Clemson, and Xavier — when Jeremy Hazell broke a bone and handicapped most of the season.

Then three fairly dismal years ensued as far as scheduling goes, prior to a recent resurgence that has obvious parallels with the 2014 recruiting class, which provided more confidence for Willard to go up against tougher opponents.

Adding the home-and-home with Wichita State in 2014-15 was the pivot point in scheduling philosophy as far as I see it. Even at the time, I labelled it a “home run“.

Present day, Seton Hall is entering their third straight year of bulked-up scheduling.

2016-17 wasn’t overly tough on paper but featured a ton of traveling (Orlando, Hawaii) to make it sneaky good.

And last season turned out to be the toughest slate since 2010 with battles against Texas Tech and Louisville away from home leading the pack, but most importantly the lack of cupcakes (NJIT, FDU only sub-250 opponents) didn’t weigh the schedule down.

With three open spots still on the schedule for next year, Seton Hall has yet to bite into a cupcake and has quite the list of headliners for 2018-19.

If the pieces fall into place, next season could be the toughest non-conference schedule Willard’s Seton Hall teams have faced.

From UMKC to Kentucky…

Combined with a younger team that has upside and fresh story lines, fans will be able to hang their proverbial hats on both an entertaining schedule and playing the role of underdog for the first time in awhile. 

Is it November yet?