Photo courtesy of Johnnie Photography.
By David Cordova
The Big East Conference has had a long history of having tough teams. This year is no exception, being that there are three programs from the conference ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll since the season started in January.
One of those teams happens to be the Pirates of Seton Hall. This year’s team is ranked No. 21 in the country, and is now 13-2 on the season. They have had some impressive wins over Indiana, Louisville, Vanderbilt, VCU, Texas Tech and most recently, Creighton in conference play on December 28th.
What is the secret to the Pirates’ success, one may ask? It is their will to battle and compete every time they get out on to the court. They are led by three of their seniors such as swingman Desi Rodriguez (18.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game), forward Angel Delgado (13.7 points and 11.5 rebounds per game) and Khadeen Carrington (14.1 points and 3.7 assists per game).
They have also gotten contributions from another senior in forward Ismael Sanogo (3.9 points per game), sophomore guard Myles Powell (14.7 points per game), junior forward Michael Nzei (5.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game), freshman guard Myles Cale (3.9 points per game) and freshman forward Sandro Mamukelashvili (2.9 points per game).
If there’s one thing that Seton Hall has shown much of this season, it’s their penchant for maintaining their composure in close games. One case in point, their home game on New Year’s Eve at the Prudential Center against St. John’s, in which they won by a small margin of five points, 75-70.
In the game, both programs had four players score the majority of their points. But it seemed as if it was a game of suspense, in which every time Seton Hall scored, St. John’s would counter with a basket of their own.
“I thought we had a good rhythm midway through the second half and then Owens hit that one three that kind of went from fifteen to twelve, and then Clark hit another three, we came down to a quick shot, and then it went from fifteen to nine, and I give St. John’s credit,” said Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard. “It was just one of those games.”
One thing that went against them was the fact that they didn’t shoot as well, as they shot 42% from the field and St. John’s shot 46%. But what helped them get through in the end was their decision-making and clutch plays.
“We got hot from behind the arc early, and whenever that happens, you wonder does that carry over? But I think their length did a good job protecting the lane.” said Willard.
So far, the Pirates are 2-0 in conference play and still in the top-25 national rankings, even making it as high as No. 15 in the AP poll in mid-December. The question now is: Will they continue their success throughout conference play and make a strong run in the NCAA Tournament?
In the last couple of years, they have made two NCAA appearances and won a Big East Conference championship just two seasons ago in 2016, which was their third in school history. But also, in each of the last two seasons, the Pirates had their season ended in the first round.
This year, with this squad, they plan on making another appearance in the Big Dance, but the mission is to get out of the first round and make it even further. In college basketball, with unity and hard work, any type of magic is possible.