Seton Hall is … actually not bad?


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.

Tom Izzo’s point is valid, but he’s wrong about the new fouling rules

Eron Harris, Tom Izzo
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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On Sunday night, after No. 3 Michigan State knocked off No. 23 Providence in the final of the Wooden Legacy, Spartans head coach Tom Izzo made sure to make his feelings known about the new college basketball officiating mandates.

He doesn’t like them.

At all.

“I just think we’re taking the flow of the game away,” Izzo said. “Maybe it’ll change. We’ll play by the same rules everybody else does. But I think I can voice my opinion to say that I don’t agree with it.”

Part of what frustrated Izzo was that, in a matchup between the two best players in college basketball, both Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn were sent to the bench with foul trouble.

“I didn’t like it either way,” Izzo said. “I didn’t like having Denzel on the bench, and I didn’t even like watching Dunn on the bench.”

“Don’t tweet this now and leave out the officials,” he added, according to CBSSports.com. “It’s not their fault. Because that’s the way they’re mandated to call them. So I am really either blaming the rules committee, which ends up on the coaches somewhat. So I’m looking in the mirror and blaming myself because I should have argued it more maybe. I just don’t think it’s fun to have these guys sitting.”

This is nothing new for Izzo. This was calculated. He basically said the same thing after Michigan State, then No. 1 in the country, beat Oklahoma in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic two seasons ago, when the rules committee tried to implement these same rules. It was his pushback that started the campaign to get rid of the freedom of movement rules.

But here’s the thing: we all knew this was going to happen. We knew there was going to be an adjustment period, for coaches and players and referees alike. In the long run, freedom of movement is good for basketball. It’s part of the reason the NBA is so much fun to watch these days, as their emphasis on the freedom of movement got us out of the days where the Detroit Pistons were winning titles without scoring 80 points.

Physicality is ingrained in college basketball. Coaches teach defense a certain way. Players play defense a certain way. The guys in the NBA are stronger, but the style of play is much more physical in the college game than the pro game. That doesn’t change overnight.

It changes when those rules are enforced and those fouls are called, and, as a result, the players and coaches learn to adjust to them.

Kennesaw State blows eight-point lead in 16 seconds, loses to Elon

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Kennesaw State entered Monday night at 1-6 on the season, but with 19 seconds left, it looked like the Owls have their second of the season locked up. Kendrick Ray made a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left to put KSU up 89-81, and all they had to do was avoid a complete meltdown to get out with a win.

They couldn’t.

A Luke Eddy layup with 16 seconds left cut the lead to six, and after KSU’s Nigel Pruitt missed two free throws, Dainan Swoope his a three with seven seconds left to make the score 89-86.

On the ensuing inbounds, Kennesaw State threw the ball away … and then proceeded to foul Eddy when he was shooting a three. This is what that disaster looked like:

Eddy would hit all three threes before, shockingly, KSU turned the ball over again. Elon could not capitalize this time, sending the game to overtime, where the Phoenix outscored the Owls 14-4.

Elon won 104-94.

Here’s what the comeback looked like on the play-by-play:

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