From Nov. 20th thru Dec. 1st, I’ll be on the road, hitting 21 games in 11 days. To follow along and read my stories from the road, click here.
NEW YORK — Seton Hall’s basketball program is not exactly the powerhouse that it was during the P.J. Carlisiemo years. We laugh and we joke and we tweet out things like “Seton HaLOL”, and while it may be mean, the Pirates haven’t exactly done anything that would make those tweets seem inaccurate.
That’s what happens when you’ve made the tournament all of three times in the last 19 years.
You’d be forgiven if you couldn’t name a player on the Seton Hall roster. No one will make fun of you if you have already written off the Pirates in the new Big East. Hell, before today, I probably would have said the same thing.
But you know what? Seton Hall isn’t a bad basketball team, and I realize how silly that sounds right now considering that I’m saying this on the night that they beat ACC cellar-dweller Virginia Tech 68-67, one night after they blew a five-point lead in the last 36 seconds to Oklahoma and one week after they lost to Mercer in double-overtime.
I get that.
But I also get that this team is one epic collapse against Oklahoma and one double-overtime road loss to the Atlantic Sun favorite from sitting at 6-0 right now.
And I’ll also tell you this: Seton Hall looks better than you probably think they do. Kevin Willard actually has some talent on his roster, especially on his perimeter. FuQuan Edwin is a legitimate NBA prospect as one of the nation’s best defenders and a knock-down three point shooter. Sterling Gibbs has been one of the country’s biggest beneficiaries of the new foul rules. Tom Mayaan is a steady presence at the point, and Jaren Sina has the ability to come off the bench and score 13 points in a half, as he did on Saturday. Throw in Georgia Tech transfer Brian Oliver and senior center Gene Teague, and there is actually some reason to be optimistic in South Orange.
“We’re not dependent on one guard like we were last year,” Willard said. “It’s made these guys life easier. Eugene gets doubled every time and FuQuan gets every team’s best defender.”
The better news came after the game, when Willard told reporters that Patrick Auda’s latest exam revealed that the worst-case scenario — he bent the screw in his surgically-repaired foot — may be out of the question, which could mean he’ll be back in a month. That’s big.
Is it enough to turn the Pirates into a tournament team?
Well, probably not.
But if there is one thing we know about the Big East this season, it’s that we don’t know anything. I can make a valid argument that any of the league’s top seven teams can win the conference regular season title, especially now that Marquette and Georgetown looked closer to ordinary than they do elite. That also means that the Pirates won’t have many easy nights on their schedule.
My point, however, is that this season, Seton Hall won’t be one of those easy nights.
The Pirates are not going to be a pushover, and as depressing as it may be, that’s actually an improvement from recent years.