Seton Hall to have their hands full in pivotal clash with Wichita State

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Coming into the season, Wichita State (5-4) was penciled in as the most talented non-conference school to play on the road at Seton Hall (8-2) since the Louis Orr days. While the Shockers’ ranking and record took a hit due to losing three games without All-American point guard Fred VanVleet, Gregg Marshall’s team is still every bit as lethal and they still present a head-turning resume win for the Hall.

Sitting at 8-2 with what is considered a mediocre NCAA tournament resume, Seton Hall is now on the tail-end of a full work week of preparation for Wichita State, a team that began the season ranked 10th after making it to the Sweet 16 last March.

With this game set to be nationally televised this Saturday on FOX, plenty of eyeballs including a ton of neutral college hoops fans and higher-ups in the college basketball world will be fixated on what goes down during a noon tip in Newark.

Understandably, the Hall’s expectations vary.

Seton Hall is probably playing their best ball of the season thus far now that Angel Delgado is in sync and the team isn’t collectively turning the rock over like crazy.

That said, judging a team after playing cupcakes like Saint Peter’s, Troy and Rutgers isn’t the smartest thing to do. Plus, this is a Pirate program that has known to come up short in the few big, pivotal games its played during the Kevin Willard era, see: @DePaul (2014-15), DePaul & Rutgers (2011-12).

“You can’t look at their losses — without VanVleet, they’re just not the same basketball team,” said Willard after his team dismantled Saint Peter’s 72-46 last Sunday. “Him and [Ron] Baker compliment each other so well, when he wasn’t in there it was much more difficult for Baker to play his game. [They’re] Two of the best tandem guards in the country, maybe one of the best defensive teams in the country when VanVleet is out there. The ball pressure, the way he plays pick and rolls.”

VanVleet, who is averaging 13.6 ppg and 5.2 apg in the four games he has played, picked up a series of injuries just prior to his team’s unsuccessful excursion to the Orlando Classic where they lost to USC, Alabama and Iowa. Ron Baker is averaging 15.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg and 3.3 apg as the Robin to his Batman.

If you’re tuned into local high school hoops or follow Seton Hall recruiting, you’ll know the name Markis McDuffie. The freshman stretch-four from St. Anthony (N.J.) has stepped up big of late including 14 against USC and Alabama and 13 against Utah. McDuffie will likely go up against fellow local products like Ish Sanogo (Newark East Side) and Desi Rodriguez (Abraham Lincoln).

“McDuffie is playing well for them, the fact that he has really made shots for them the last two games, I think it has opened up things for Baker and VanVleet,” said Willard of the talented freshman he once recruited.

“We’re going to have our hands full, we’re going to have to handle their pressure in the half court and we’re going to have to do a very good job on VanVleet. I know they said last night [during the Utah game] he’s only 80-percent but he looked pretty darn good.”

Ranked 24th in defensive efficiency and 340th in tempo, Wichita State plays a methodical, mistake-free and defensively-sound game as seen in their 77-68 win over Seton Hall in Kansas last year; the game was not as close as the score indicates. The Shockers have held opponents to 53 points and under since VanVleet’s return.

For Seton Hall’s players, this clash has been marked on their iPhone calendars for quite some time, first hinted at by a comment from Derrick Gordon – who didn’t even play in the game last year – following the Hall’s win over Dartmouth last month.

“It’s big, I think we really have to take it as we took Georgia,” said point guard Isaiah Whitehead, who scored 23 points at Charles Koch Arena last December. “They killed us last year so we’re going to watch a lot of film on them. I know that VanVleet is back so they’re a much different team than people think they are. We’re just going to watch a lot of film and hopefully we get that revenge.”

“They’re always ranked. They’re always a tournament team,” observed Khadeen Carrington with the acumen of any hoops fan in tune with the incredible success of Wichita State over the last five-plus seasons. “Getting a win, that’ll be big for the program, that’ll be a big resume win. We’ve got a week to prepare, we’re just going to go hard in practice this week.”

If there is one glaring reason for Seton Hall fans to be hopeful it’s the absence of graduate transfer forward Anton Grady (9 ppg, 6 rpg) after he was injured during a hard-to-watch fall in the Shockers’ loss to Alabama in Orlando. The former Cleveland State forward suffered a spinal concussion and could possibly be out for the year.

Markis McDuffie has stepped up but isn’t a big threat in the post; fellow forwards Rashard Kelly, Shaq Morris and Tom “Bush” Wamukota have chipped in by committee in the absence of Grady.

While Seton Hall fans have every reason to be skeptical and perhaps even Kevin Willard and his staff quietly have their doubts about Saturday’s outcome, there is one Pirate who is suiting up in armor for what could turn out to be a pivotal game in Willard’s regime in South Orange.

“Hell— [stops himself] yeah, absolutely,” said a semi-reserved Angel Delgado about looking forward to Saturday. “They were at home [last year], we got everything against us. They played really good, they made a lot of shots. I’m really coming for them. I’m playing hard, I’m working hard this week and I hope these guys help me because I’m coming with everything.”

Even if Seton Hall throws everything they have at Wichita State, will that be enough to blow the Shockers’ fuse? We’ll know by 3pm on Saturday.

  • Jersey Jerry

    It’s time to step-up and WIN a BIG GAME!!!! Will be watching from FLA and it would be nice to see REAL fans in those empty seats we’ve had the last couple games!!! GO HALL!!!

    • VinBick

      Will be there-an old Jersey Shore alum traveling to the Rock to cheer for the Blue & White. Just look for a fat, bald, old guy in his blue and white hoodie….

      • Jersey Jerry

        ? is; ‘As an a fat, bald, old guy in his blue and white hoodie, will it have the OLD logo on it?’ Have my OLD logo on!!! GO HALL ‘n let’s do this!!!

        • VinBick

          Sorry, the new logo is on it, but it worked! What a game. Watched it on tape again last night. Nice win for the Pirates.
          Have to win a dozen in the Big East which will be tough but doable. Must beat Johnnies, G’town, Creighten, and DePaul twice each, and steal one from each of the rest….

  • iratepirate

    As you wrote, Angel Delgado is in sync…. when we play Troy and St. Peter’s. Now we face real guards, real offensive and defensive talent and intensity. We aren’t just going to be able to play our game and get open shots and lanes.

    Our resume without Wichita State is outside the bubble. We are (280) in NC SOS with only two wins against bubble teams to show for it, as well as a bad loss. This is not going to impress the committee who might not want a 5 or 6th mediocre team from the Big East.

    We need this game. The coach better have a game plan, and the players better be motivated. We still probably need 10 in conference with this win to get in the field safely, but tomorrow is a YUGE step as the Donald would say.

    • Couple things:

      Long Beach State is not a bad loss, nor do I think they will ultimately turn out to be a BL. They are 93rd in RPI and will contend for a Big West auto-bid.

      Seton Hall is 275th in KenPom SOS but 133rd in RPI SOS. Big difference. The Hall is also 49th in RPI.

      • iratepirate

        What makes a loss bad for you? LBSU has done zilch since beating us. Just lost to Pepperdine. 4-6 record. They played a really tough OOC, but the only win of merit was against us (maybe BYU?). Their conference opponents will drop their overall SOS which means they have to go on a run to keep their RPI high. I don’t see it. If they end up below 150 by the end of the season it goes on the “losses to 150+ opponents” sheet.

        275th or 280th are both deplorable SOS. It was 280 a few days ago.

        I don’t usually go by the RPI before well into conference season since it tends to have some wacky results. (Top 20 RPI includes Colorado, ARLR, Davidson)

        I love your optimism though. We need this win!

        • I was under the impression that sub-200 was considered a BL by the committee. According to (which of course isn’t exact this early in season), LBSt will have to go 13-16 or worse to finish with a sub-150 RPI.

          I agree with your last point about RPI but Colorado, ARLR and Davidson are all good teams that have good chances of Dancing, IMO

          • iratepirate

            I hope you’re right. I see other people in the comments don’t feel this is a must-win, but I really don’t see how we’ve done enough in the OOC to merit any consideration. If we lose I feel like we would need 11+ wins to get in, which is darn near impossible by this coach. I could see us sneaking out with 9 or 10 wins maybe if everything were to come together.

            Depaul (2)
            Creighton (2)
            St. Johns (2)
            Marquette Split
            Villanova Split
            Georgetown Split
            Maybe a Providence Split?

            I don’t see us beating X or Butler.

  • Fishjam

    Really is a huge game for this season and the program in general. Will be a lot of recruits taking notice of the outcome and the atmosphere in the building. I’m hoping the arena will be packed and loud…I know I’ll be there! Everybody on this board should be there! WS had a huge home court advantage last year, let’s support our guys.

    Very tough matchup for the Pirates though. Wichita’s strengths – team pressure defense, incredible guard play and slow methodical pace could frustrate the Pirates who tend to get lazy and make bad decisions when teams force them out of their comfort zone.

    Will be a big test for the coaching staff to see how they plan to counteract the half-court pressure on the guards. IW and team have not responded well when the double team traps force him to give up the ball. They will need to recognize this and find other areas to set him up to score and create.

  • Thoughts on the new unis that will be worn on Sat? They are awesome.

    • Fishjam

      Unis are sweet. Reminiscent of our golden era at Seton Hall when we were at the top of the Big East for 5-6 years. When the St.Anthony’s pipeline was thurning out Pirate players and when Jersey’s best HS kids all checked out the Hall…… when Fishjam was a young whipper-snapper

  • Andrew Herbst

    Can’t wait for Saturday’s game. I won’t be able to go, but I’ll be watching and cheering our boys on. GO PIRATES.

  • PadrePirate

    Reading this preview and knowing our team’s weaknesses, I’d say WSU wins with something like a 71-65 margin.

    That said, we REALLY need this game, both for momentum going into BE play, and to even have a chance at a tourney bid. We will not win this game without disciplined, intense D and some creative ball movement on offense, getting the post going early. We will likely not be able to run a lot against a low TO type team. But, we can do this, if everyone steps up.

    So, let’s go PIRATES!

  • fouline

    This isn’t a must win game. This is a must play well game. The team has been inconsistent on both sides of the ball. Now put it together!

  • Matty P

    Just saw a tweet from Jon Rothstein that Grady practiced lightly and could possibly play tomorrow. Surprised to see it go from he may not play this year to him having a chance of playing tomorrow. I think this might just be a situation where Wichita State is trying to force the SHU coaching staff to spend some time to thinking about another possibility. Even if he does happen to play I wouldn’t imagine him getting much playing time or being overly effective since he’s missed a lot of time and hasn’t been able to practice much before this game.

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