Seton Hall’s trip to the Charleston Classic will reveal plenty

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Beginning with Long Beach State in the opening round of the Charleston Classic, the next five games could strongly influence the overall outcome of Seton Hall’s season.

As stressed in my pre-season preview of the 49ers, the Hall’s all-important opening round game on Thursday night in South Carolina will be an upgrade from Dartmouth and Wagner and will greatly affect how their overall performance in Charleston is judged.

Sporting a balanced squad and ranked 237th in KenPom, Long Beach State is 2-0 after beating both BYU-Hawaii and No. 58 BYU on their home court in Long Beach.

Post-Wagner, Kevin Willard deflected the notion that the coming games would be a tougher test for his team, stating how this early in the season no team is easy and they all provide a different challenge, but I’ll personally assure you that Long Beach State is no slouch.

“Obviously, Virginia is an extremely good basketball team. Long Beach State had five guys sitting out [last year]. Everyone we play gives us a different challenge, especially earlier in the season,” said Willard in the bowels of the Richie Regan Rec Center on Sunday. “Later in the season as we get better it’ll be different, but early in the season, college basketball this time of the year… you better bring your “A” game or you’re going to get beat.”

As for the progress of his 2-0 team?

“I think we’re getting better. Defensively and in the half court, I’ve been very happy over the first two games; I thought we made good strides with that,” said Willard while media kicked back in the lavish new athletics film room post-Wagner. “We have to make strides in the transition game both offensively and defensively, especially offensively because again it’s taking away opportunities for us. Two games in a row now we’ve had chances to go on 12-, 13-, 14-point runs and we’re turning the ball over and giving lay-ups away. We’ve made good strides in the halfcourt defense and now we’ve got to tune up the transition game.”

Willard was referring to the combined 43 times his team has fumbled away the rock so far this season. The most obvious flaw of this Pirate team has resulted in the 314th-best turnover percentage in the nation.

The bad news for Seton Hall? While slightly inflated due to playing a non-Division I team, Long Beach State is sixth in the country in defensive turnover percentage after forcing BYU to cough the rock up 24 times.

Dispatching the 49ers will surely mean that Seton Hall advances to play No. 6 Virginia, who were upset on the road 73-68 at future non-conference opponent George Washington on Monday night. The alternative of losing and taking on a poor Bradley team and then George Mason or Towson (unless Ole Miss/Oklahoma State are upset) in the losers bracket is not pretty.

A defensive juggernaut and methodical offensive team, the Cavaliers and Malcolm Brogdon (16.5 ppg) will likely look to slow down a Pirate team that has tried to run at every opportunity – to a fault at times – so far this season.

While winning the Charleston Classic is the best case scenario, beating Long Beach State will most likely pit the Hall against a top-10 team and another top-50 school regardless of the outcome against Virginia. For fan support and most importantly team morale, a direct route to the losers bracket could be damaging to the team’s psyche and should be avoided at all costs; I’d tell my team to play the opening round like an elimination game.

“Staying together. That’s the main thing, we’re at a point right now we can’t go off and do our own thing,” said fifth-year senior Derrick Gordon post-Wagner of what the team has to do to build momentum. “We’ve got to stay together, that’s the only way we’re going to win. We all know that the offense will take care of itself but that we’ve got to stay focused on the defensive end.”

After admitting he already can’t stop thinking about taking on No. 9 Wichita State, Gordon’s level-headed response was directly equivalent to his calm, commanding demeanor on the court that has some fans already curious about the role he can play as backup point guard to Isaiah Whitehead.

With a youthful smile on his face, Gordon’s demeanor heading to the Charleston Classic was contrasted by a certain young, energetic, budding Pirate forward named Angel Delgado when asked about his outlook on the early season tournament.

“I’m looking to win every game.”

  • VinBick

    “I think we’re getting better. Defensively and in the half court, I’ve been very happy over the first two games; I thought we made good strides with that,” said Willard Is the coach watching the same two games that everyone else has observed? He is actually happy with the defensive? Lots of open shots by the two weak teams encountered is not solid defense is it? And if he is happy with Whitehead playing out of control at the offensive game, this team is in trouble.

    Note the comment by Gordon after the Wagner game. Seems like he is taking a shot at Whitehead’s selfish play, too. “Staying together. That’s the main thing, we’re at a point right now we can’t go off and do our own thing,” said fifth-year senior Derrick Gordon.

    Gibbs and Sina left because of the coach letting Whitehead play the same way last year.

    • Carl MacDonald

      Isaiah single handedly ruined a ranked team when he came off that injury last season. And there is already locker room jibs taking place two games in. I’m predicting they drop tonight’s game so I can start worrying about next season.

  • Andrew Herbst

    I’m looking forward to watching us play in the Charleston Classic. Will be a great test for us. Long Beach St. won’t be easy. Have to cut down on turnovers, or we could be in for a long night.

  • jfp1992

    Another year of poor coaching. Is Willard’s recruiting sell that he will let the players do whatever they want?

  • PadrePirate

    “I think we’re getting better…”
    IW going from 8 assists down to 3 is a big regression in my book, and that stat doesn’t reflect all the selfish or at least mindless play we saw against Wagner.

    DGs careful comment about “staying together” and not one guy “doing his own thing” seems pretty clearly directed at IW.

    For all the talk about IW leaving for the NBA, I personally don’t think any scout will give him a second look, if he doesn’t become more of a team player and a more intelligent player.

    • Joe Schmoe

      Isaiah Whitehead is no more an NBA prospect that Aquille Carr was. Maybe a D legue stint here/there…overseas for a bit… back home on the block picking up undercover hookers by age 25.

      • Everything about this post is fine until the last sentence. Direct mudslinging at Isaiah and assuming he has the same character as Aquille Carr.

        No more of this please.

        • Joe Schmoe

          I did not intend it as direct mudslinging at IW. I meant it as direct mudslinging at the program, the coach, and the caliber of athletes they draw. In the end, the comment was actually true and not without merit….

          But, I fully see where your coming from. Its your website, and your work, and I respect that. The University should have cleaned house at the end of last season. Regardless of the cost or whatever the excuses. 2015-2016 is just going to be another year of that…. I’ll be a fan again when we have a new coach.

  • Bryan Eichenbaum

    I am impressed with the team’s early play. Our talent is evident and I am impressed with the fact we are not settling for three point shots. Gordon is good teammate and is meshing well with our talented super sophs.

    If team continues to play with poise and focus, we will surprise anyone that continues to underestimate us.

  • fouline

    Chris, you’re right… This is the first game of the rest of the season. It’s going to answer a lot of questions we all have about the team and Willard & Company. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.

  • Fishjam

    Entertaining 1st half…Long beach is shooting the lights out! I’m more concerned with their defense in the paint…too quick to help on the penetrator has led to easy layups and offensive rebounds. Need to see better boxing out on defense.
    IW seems to have made a concerted effort to play within the framework of offense to start the game but still drifts at inopportune moments in the game. Before the end of the half he turned the ball over 3 times in the last 2-3 minutes…..the last one with 10-12 seconds left was brutal and led to an open 3 on the other end so was a 5-point swing. Those have to stop! There are still many times when he makes incredible passes that surprise his teammates too….he probably legitimately loses 2-3 assists per game bc teammates can’t hold on to his passes. Although those aren’t his fault he needs to understand how to make his passes more catchable at times

  • Fishjam

    Ish is playing a terrible game on defense today. As much as we all praised him the first 2 games he has really been poor tonight…not because of lack of effort but he just looks confused out there tonight. He’s been out of position many times and giving waaaay too much room for his man to shoot. Have to remember he is still very inexperienced…..he’ll get better.

  • LBP

    Well unfortunately it revealed too much-

  • Fishjam

    Angel isn’t playing well either……now that I think of it, no one is really having a great game. They are playing hard and effort is good but playing a solid team that is shooting the lights out and taking advantage of opportunities.

  • Fishjam

    Good effort after falling behing by 16. They made their run with a small lineup with Delgado on the bench the entire time. Nzei played some solid minutes, Ish played better late and IW was under control and provided a big spark. Gordon and Dino played well at times but bonehead play by Gordon not boxing out the shooter with 8 seconds left ruined their chance to win it. Dino had a good look to tie it at the buzzer but instead of shooting it he hung in the air looking to draw a foul and shot an airball.

  • LBP

    Pretty sad- no sense of urgency -no Coaching adjustments—bad clock and time-out management- Carrington dribbling away precious last seconds-Gordon loses rebound-Whitehead still spinning and High-School-Delgado no energy- No one can convince me that LBS has better athletes or Talent-does any SHU player play defense?