Photo courtesy of Asbury Park Press.
By David Cordova
This season has been one rollercoaster ride for the Seton Hall Pirates. They started off the season nationally-ranked and winning some big games in their non-conference schedule against teams such as Louisville, Texas Tech and Indiana, which would propel them to an 11-2 record.
The beginning of conference play started on a roll as they won their first three games against Creighton, St. John’s and Butler. After that, the Hall started going on the decline, as they have gone 4-7 since then.
It’s been a very rough patch for the Pirates during conference play as the team is trying to jell together. But then again, there’s never any easy games in the Big East. And it continues to get tougher.
Against DePaul on Sunday, the Pirates struggled with their shooting against the moribund Blue Demons. Although the game was close throughout the beginning of the game, Seton Hall pulled away midway through the first half, leading by as much as twelve, 38-26, with 3:16 to go.
But then with the scoring of senior forward Tre’Darius McCollum, the Blue Demons came back and cut the deficit to two before time ran out and intermission commenced with Seton Hall leading by two, 38-36.
In the second half, Seton Hall still led by nine points most of the way, but DePaul continued to come back on them and keep the game even closer behind the performance of center and graduate student Marin Maric, as they cut their deficit to 60-54, with 8:40 to go.
However, Seton Hall countered with the heroics of senior guard/forward Desi Rodriguez, who led them with a game-high 33 points, who helped them go up nine, 75-66, with 2:08 to go in the second half, on a three-pointer. However, DePaul could not and would not die down, as their free-throw shooting kept them close.
But the Pirates would then hold on and win behind the free throw contributions of Rodriguez and fellow senior guard Khadeen Carrington, as they would claim an 82-77 win.
Now, the question remains, will Seton Hall continue to get better? And also, will they BE able to make a good run in order to ensure their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance?
Over the next few weeks, those questions will be answered by their play as they have four more Big East regular season games to play in the regular season, starting with tonight’s road game against Providence, Saturday’s game at Madison Square Garden in New York against St. John’s and their final two home games at the Prudential Center in Newark, which will be February 28th against Villanova, who is rated the No. 3 team in the nation in the Associated Press poll, and their Senior Day matchup on March 3rd against Butler.
After that, comes the Big East Tournament, also at Madison Square Garden, from the week of March 7-10. A deep run in there will hopefully ensure their chances at another appearance in the Big Dance.
With an 18-9 record, Seton Hall is definitely a team worthy of an NCAA Tournament run. But if they lose these next couple of games or slip up during the conference tournament, then the Pirates may have to settle for an NIT appearance.
The biggest question to be asked is: Will the Pirates be able to recapture the magic that they started with during non-conference play and the spark that led them to as high as the No. 13 ranking in the Associated Press poll?
Just two years ago, when many counted The Hall out, they made big noise in the Big East Tournament by defeating Villanova in the title game, and winning their third conference title in school history.
In the month of March, anything is possible. But right now, in the case of the Seton Hall Pirates, only time and wins will determine the fate of the Pirates.