Seton Hall adjusting to the Mile High City

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Altitude, altitude, altitude. That is the 5,280-dollar question heading into Thursday night’s NCAA tournament first round game between Seton Hall and Gonzaga.

Located a 25 minute walk southeast of the Pepsi Center, the 13th step of the Colorado state capitol building is literally 5,280 feet — a mile — above sea level.

That being so, the thinner air coupled with Seton Hall’s short rotation and faster playing style than Gonzaga has raised questions from fans, media and perhaps the players alike about how the Pirates will be able to cope come Thursday with the nation’s eyes fixated upon the latest game of the day.

“It just takes one or two practices to get used to,” explained head coach Kevin Willard during a Tuesday evening teleconference. “Early in practice today our guys were feeling it a little bit, but by the end of the practice they got very used to the altitude.”

In what is a no-brainer, Seton Hall took a Monday night flight to Denver in order to give ample time to adjust.

“I’m glad we got out early. I think it does affect you, [but] I think it’s more mental than physical,” diagnosed Willard .”Once your body get used to it — and these kids are so young, they’re in such great shape, I think after a couple hours we started getting accustomed to it.”

While one school of logic says that Seton Hall’s higher tempo and short rotation could be negatively affected by the thin air, there’s also an equal counter-argument: Gonzaga uses even less of their bench (335th in bench minutes) and if they are forced to play at a higher pace than they’re accustomed to, they may be the ones that struggle more.

Ever-handy Google has universally said that drinking higher amounts of water and getting better nights of sleep are the go-to solutions to adjusting and avoiding side effects. I also read that waking up the first time after changing altitudes can be a little unpleasant, which is interesting when considering Ismael Sanogo’s following quote.

“This morning when I got up, sitting there and breathing the air it felt thinner, it was hard for me to breathe,” admitted Seton Hall’s starting power forward. “But once I got to practice, we got up and down a little bit it hit me at first, but after a couple reps of going up and down it was just like a normal practice. It’s more mental than a physical thing.”

I’m sure Sanogo will be just fine after playing 38 minutes in a Big East title game with a stomach bug, puking at halftime along the way.

For guard Khadeen Carrington, he’s also feeling the physical effects of Denver.

“It’s been a little tough, today in practice we were kind of getting tired fast, but our trainers have been doing a good job — we’ve got a couple oxygen pumps,” said Carrington. “Everybody is just fighting through it, there’s no time to let that hold us back now.”

Although there is likely truth to the physical versus mental aspect, anything above 4,900 feet is considered “high altitude”.

Some have wondered if Gonzaga will have a slight edge due to Spokane, Washington being situated 1,800 feet above the Pacific, but seems to indicate a negligible difference.

Khadeen agreed.

“I wouldn’t call it a disadvantage. I think we’re going to be used to it by time we play, I’m not trying to make any excuses.”

  • Fishjam

    Watching ESPN I couldn’t help to notice the crawl which says by ESPNs BPI, Gonzaga has a 71% chance to win.

    I tell ya, I get no respect.

    Winter, Summer, Spring and Fall
    We’re always up against the Wall
    What’s the matter Rodney?
    Ah, I get no respect at all!!

    • Hallbuster

      Simple solution
      Beat them all
      That’s why we are seton hall

      • Fishjam

        That’s it Hallbuster and I really do think it’s a help to our young guys who use it as fuel…it’s not just lip service. Our team has felt disrespected all year and it does drive them. Now onto Gonzaga……

        3 Things to be Concerned About

        1) Gonzaga reminds me a little of Butler. They have some veteran leaders who play smart and have a lot of big-game experience. They pass well on offense and often work inside-out since Sabones does a nice job of passing out of the post when doubled to find open 3s.

        2) Sabones is very good. When I first watched him he remnded me of Luke Fischer or Andrew Charabacz but watching him more he reminds me more of Ben Bentil. He is a very strong player around the basket, great at absorbing contact and is a good shooter from the field and the line. Wiljter is their leading scorer but Sabones is their best player and will give us the most problems. Angel better be ready.

        3) Zags are the best defensive rebounding team in the Nation statistically. Sabones is an elite rebounder and the rest of the players do a fine jon boxing out. This will be interesting since the Pirates are a dynamic offensive rebounding team but will need to work hard

        3a) If the refs call a lot of fouls and its a close game, Zaga will have a big edge at the line as they shoot 75%. As we know the Pirates have often shot 60% or lower.

        3 Reasons to be Optimistic

        1) With the exception of Sabones vs Angel, Seton Hall has a big edge in athleticism. Our defensive pressure will give them problems and they won’t be able to hang with us in transition.

        2) The Zags guards McClellan and Perkins are decent players but will have major problems stopping Z & Dino from getting in the paint at will. Draiginis is an excellent defender at 6’5 but will have his hands full with Desi. Draiginis is like Ish & DG and he likes to come off his player to double team. I’d expect him to do this a lot on IW and Angel, and when he does, they need to make the pass to find the open man.

        3) I really like the matchup of Ish on Wiljter. Wiljter can shoot but he struggles with athletic defenders. Ish handled Ellenson well and he’s a comparitive player. If Wiljter can be contained by Ish, the Pirates need to stay home on everyone else. Zaga’s offense is based on Wiljter shooting and Sabones creating inside out. The guards get their points when teams double the bigs…if the Pirates stay home on the bigs the guards will have a lot of trouble creating their own offense.

        • hallstorm

          Agree with all of that Fishjam. Marquette and Butler are exactly the teams I’ve compared Gonzaga to leading up to this game. I’m somewhat familiar with Gonzaga-my cousins have all graduated from there and now their kids go to the prep school currently. I’ve used Marquette as a better example given their big guy tandem.

          As for the ESPN % predictor, I saw it when it first came out and it was 60%. It went from 60% to 71% (and this based on a team that supposedly wouldn’t have made it in without the conference championship). This tells you something about ESPN’s hatred toward the Big East (or, perhaps, their lack of knowledge considering that they probably view none of the games). I think it ultimately works in The Hall’s favor. But no matter what Seton Hall does, they are in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t: if they win, the other team had an injury, didn’t get a call, had a “letdown” game or fell asleep. If Seton Hall loses, they can finally say “I told you so”.

        • LBP

          Thanks again Fishjam-Oddly I feel very confident abut this Game.
          I just do not know how Gonzaga can compete with Hall’s athletes-
          Only worry is Refs and, hate to say it, Foul shooting.
          Big East is dissed by ESPN but watching Creighton destroy Alabama was great for my psyche( an my pocketbook;-)

          • Fishjam

            LBP, I’m also confident in how well we are playing and our defense translates vs any opponent. But I’d be lying if I said Gonzaga doesn’t concern me. They are just an awesome program, well-coached, fundamentaly sound and veteran. If they didn’t draw the Pirates, I’d have picked them as a Sweet 16 team.
            Another thing that gives me pause is how it takes us a while to measure an opponent. We were better against everyone in the Big East the 2nd time we faced them and were super confident by the time the BET came around.

            The only way I see us getting in trouble is if Gonzaga withstands our pressure and we are overagressive on double teams giving the Zags open looks early and they get hot from 3. Only a Butler-like 50-55% FG shooting night will make trouble for us.
            LBP – Sell the +1.5 points to get better odds and take the Hall straight up. BTW, what are the odds to make Final 4?

      • Joe Schmoe

  • Looking a little further down the road, it seems clear that Utah does have an advantage due to Salt Lake City’s elevation of 4,200 feet.

    • Matty P

      Bad news for Fresno State. Luckily by the time we would have to play them we should have plenty of time to adjust.

    • JJer

      Although I recall being concerned during the ’89 NCAA game against Indiana in Denver that the Indiana players were sucking on oxygen masks during breaks, while Seton Hall had no altitude aids. But not to worry, Seton Hall coasted.

    • WilponsStinkLessNow

      I hope you get to eat some good Mexican food while you’re out there — it’s the best. D’Corazon is great, and close to the Pepsi Center.

      • I saw a dozen mexican places within a few blocks of my hotel so I had to google Denvers demographics. Had no idea it was 1/3rd hispanic. No complaints here. Thanks for suggestion

  • Matty P

    Looks like the team is having some fun tonight bowling and playing some ping pong. Nice to see them out there having a little fun tonight to keep things loose prior to putting in the hard work tomorrow to fully prepare for the game.

  • Matty P

    Nice article from the post about the Sophomore recruiting class.

    • Mosleyman

      The NY Post has provided great coverage all year, and recently it has been better than some of the NJ papers. I’m sure part of it is because of all of our NY players, but even so, the NY Daily News doesn’t even seem to be aware that Seton Hall has a team. Lately the Post has had two great columns about Seton Hall per day. Kudos to Zach Braziller and company.

      • Louie Dee

        Daily News is aware. Front page on Sunday’s paper

        • Mosleyman

          I saw that, but it was more coverage of the Big East Tournament than coverage of Seton Hall. Most of their SHU game coverage from the season was 2 paragraphs from AP, if they included anything at all, and I can’t remember any features. They cover St. John’s as the hometown team and South Orange might as well be in Idaho.

  • Louie Dee

    Hey Guys – Found a GU message board and their fans are also concerned about the altitude. Lol

    • Matty P

      I would say it’s a serious concern for a team that only has a 6 person rotation, plus their 2 main guys are big men which I would imagine in a faster pace game would get winded more easily. If SHU is able to dictate the pace then it becomes a bigger factor. If Gonzaga dictates the pace then I don’t think the altitude will be as big of an effect on the players.

  • PadrePirate

    Just watched recording of the Nova victory. Two (unpleasant) things caught my attention:

    1) Isaiah Whitehead’s departure considered likely : KW said at the BE trophy presentation: “I’ve got the best player in the country (IW). I don’t know if I’ll see him again, but that’s ok.” > Thoughts??

    We haven’t talked about it on this board in a while, but I don’t even want to think about IW leaving for the draft. KW and other people who care about Isaiah (and the program) should encourage him to stay put. I recall LBP or VB posting recently that it would

    2) Delgado’s weakness: Fox commentators, mainly Jim Jackson, pointed out how AD refused to go to his right, over and over, even when given that lane by his defender. One play, late in the 2nd half, AD caught a pass, practically facing the backboard, but, instead of going up strong, turned his back to the glass to go around the other side, whether he was smothered. I hope other teams don’t pick up on this.

    AD has played decently but has yet to have the “breakout” game we’ve been waiting for since the first Xavier victory.

    • Matty P

      I think Whitehead leaving for the NBA depends on how far we go in the tournament. If we get knocked out early then he’ll probably stay. I think the determining point might be the Michigan State game. In order to win that I think he would have to outplay Valentine which would open a lot of eyes.

      I think in the game against Gonzaga the key isn’t going to be the amount of points Delgado puts up but him staying in the game, limiting some of the offensive output from Sabones, and collecting defensive rebounds to limit second chance opportunities. His best chance on the offensive side against Sabones might be his quickness and ability to find an open man if they decide to double when the ball goes into the post.

      • Joe J

        great point on IW. I totally agree. Playing great against MSU in the Sweet 16 would really put him high in the 1st round and he would leave. An early exit by the Hall and I believe he would stay another year.

    • Joe Schmoe

      I don’t see IW leaving. While his game has improved exponentially over this season… He has a lot of “clean up” things he still needs…sloppy passing and turnovers. I feel like another year of college ball, a put/together year from start to finish would help..

  • PadrePirate

    Sorry, phrase on IW cut off: “…that it would be better for Isaiah to stay another year.”

    • Joe Schmoe

      Isaiah is not high 1st round draft pick right now. I’m sure some teams are interested… But he really needs another year or two in NCAAs…

  • Jersey Jerry

    Yeah, ’89 games in Denver were WINS!!! Almost 15 over Indiana then 20+ over UNLV and on to ‘da King Dome w/another almost 20 point win over Duke followed by the heart-breaker vs Big Blue.

    WHY NOT US this year!!! PJ thinks it’s possible, let’s hope ‘da Kids from ‘da Hall do also!!!

  • jfp1992

    Thanks for the update, Chris!

  • shufaninva

    A blast from the past. Just getting those tourney juices flowing for tomorrow. I’m guessing sleep won’t come easy tonight.

    I was at that game. (see below) I grew up in Buffalo and was 21 years old at the time. I ended up getting tickets through the Lafayette box office. It was the only team of the four in that session that had tickets. I was first in line to get my tickets, about 90 minutes before tip. However, since Lafayette was playing in the second game of that session, the student that was working the box office for Lafayette arrived super late, and even had to be called from his hotel room. I assume he overslept. In any event, even being the first in line, I had my tickets with about 10 min before tip. It was an awesome game. Shaheen hits a layup to send it to OT, and another to win it in OT. I was jumping around the section screaming like a maniac with Lafayette fans looking at me like I was a crazy person. It might be the happiest I have ever been as a sports fan. I love this team, and these memories make you realize why we do this, season after season after season, for the hope and dream that someday we have a team like this. Just soaking it in and enjoying it, because nothing in sports is a guarantee, so we really don’t know for sure the next time we will be in this spot. My God, remember Darius Lane? That guy was money from 3!!

    BUFFALO, N.Y. — There was no doubt that Shaheen Holloway wanted to be the shot-taker.

    Seton Hall’s mercurial point guard drove the length of the court and through and around a double team to score on an underhanded layup high off the glass with 1.9 seconds left in overtime to defeat Oregon, 72-71, yesterday in the NCAA East Regional at HSBC Arena.

    “He always has the opportunity to use his instincts and make a play and he did,” said Pirates coach Tommy Amaker, the former Duke guard.

    “They tried to get that ball out of his hands, but he would not give it up. He kept going until he found an opening and made an incredible shot.”

    The senior finished with 27 points and atoned for an earlier turnover in overtime that had given the Ducks a 69-68 lead.

    “I went open in the middle, and I think Sam [freshman center Sam Dalembert] did a great job of covering his man so I could get to the basket,” Holloway said. “I felt comfortable taking the shot. I’m just glad it went down.”

    Holloway had options in case he was bogged down with the clock expiring quickly. But he never needed them.

    “We had a play that coach told me to run. It’s one of our special ones. I can’t tell you the name of it,” he said. “I had the opportunity to go for it myself to take advantage of the way they played it.”

    The Pirates (21-9) had a 57-47 advantage with 7: 07 remaining in regulation, but needed Rimas Kaukenas’ drive with 3.3 seconds remaining to force overtime after falling behind five times by one or two points.

    Oregon (22-8) came into the game seeking its first NCAA tournament win in 40 years.

    Kaukenas and Darius Lane each contributed 14 points for Seton Hall, which will play Temple tomorrow.

    • VinBick

      Indeed, VA Fan. Cherished sports memories are sometimes comforting in this crazy world we live in today. I remember watching a Dodgers vs Giants game in Ebbets Field, Brooklyn as a nine or ten year old. Duke Snyder, my hero, hit a home run to win the game. We never forget such memorable events.

      The ’89 run by the Hall is another series of games I will never forget. Hope everyone is relishing this year’s great Pirate adventure! Go Pirates!!!!

      • shufaninva

        Gotta love Ty Shine.

    • Joe Schmoe

      I remember the next game vs #2 Temple vividly. Shaheen didnt play(not much at least), and Ty Shine was lights out from behind the arc that day.

      • shufaninva

        A buddy of mine always asks me if Nutter still has any eligibility left. He went to a Hall game with me when we visited Richmond one year, and he thought a guy named Nutter was the funniest thing ever.

        • Joe Schmoe

          Jamar was an assistant coach for a community college team here in Jersey last I heard.

  • Matty P

    Off topic of the tournament, but it looks like Hurley turned down the job at Rutgers. Certainly a big blow and shows that the concerns about Barchi is real. While I like to see Rutgers lose, I would like to see them have some sort of success and bring a little bit of excitement back to NJ basketball and the rivalry we have with them.

  • shufaninva

    It’s amazing how much people have said the words “Seton Hall….” to me in the last couple weeks. I am less than an hour from UVA and even though I know a ton of UVA and Tech fans, a lot of people that don’t have a horse in the race this year are talking Seton Hall and are excited for me. My hope is that we are ranked all next year and people can talk about us for months instead of weeks. I’ve had buddies text me and send me links of stories about Whitehead and Gordon saying that they had no idea the stories these guys have. I know I’ve talked about them enough but now people are listening haha. I had even one guy ask me about our starting lineup and his eyes got HUGE when I said we start 5 sophomores. Man this team grew up quick. Now all eyes are on us, and this will be a great test for our players and coaches, most, if not all of which will be around next year.

    • ThePirateFan

      They really did grow up fast, it’s amazing. Such a fun time to be a fan.

  • Matty P

    I saw this stat and thought it was interesting. Considering we’ve been breaking down barriers this season why not break this one.

    No. 6 seeds are in quite the Final Four drought. Only three 6 seeds have gotten that far (Providence in 1987, Kansas in 1988 and Michigan in 1992); it’s been nearly a quarter-century since the last occurrence.

  • Matty P

    Glad to hear from Whitehead that the team’s adjusted to the altitude. Good thing they got out there early. Also if you want to read more about the team check out the rest of Dennis’ twitter.