Team: Seton Hall Pirates. For being a movie based on a Disney ride, the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie holds up fairly well. The rest....we won’t talk about.
2017-18 Record: 22-12 overall, 10-8 Big East.
2017-18 Big East Finish: Tied for third with Creighton and Providence.
Final 2017-18 KenPom Ranking: #26
Postseason? They were an 8 seed, beating NC State in the first round and then losing to Kansas 83-79 in the second round. That had a bit of a weird finish, if you recall. Kansas was up by 8 with a minute left, but Khadeen Carrington kept making shots so the Pirates kept fouling and it ended up being a 4 point game at the end.
After typing all that out I realize that was not nearly as interesting as I initially thought, but I’m keeping it in here.
Key Departures: Most of their starting lineup. Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, Ismael Sanogo and Angel Delgado all graduated. Then Eron Gordon transferred to Valparaiso. Good riddance to that atrociously-spelled name. I hope that every time his parents are wanting to turn right at a red light there’s a car in front of them going straight, forcing them to wait for the signal change even though there’s hardly any traffic coming the other way.
Key Returners: Myles Powell is the big name here. He’ll probably get some Preseason First Team All-Big East love. In a direct affront to the metric system and consistent spelling, Kevin Willard has another Myles on the team returning in Myles Cale. He’ll likely be getting starter minutes. Then there’s Michael Nzei and Sandro Malhorbeskoph, a second year stretch four who you haven’t heard of.
How do I know that? His name isn’t Sandro Malhorbeskoph and you didn’t notice. It’s Sandro Mamukelashvili. Duh.
Key Additions: They have a couple impact transfers hopping down the bunny trail. There’s Quincy McKnight, a 6-3 guard from Sacred Heart, and Taurean Thompson, a 6-10 forward from Syracuse.
They have a couple freshmen coming in as well. There’s Valdir Manuel (Ranked #199 overall on 247 Sports, ranked #1 on my list of dynamite first names), Jared Rhoden (#196) and Anthony Nelson (#202). All told, their recruiting class is ranked #62 in the country by 247 Sports and seventh best in the Big East.
Coach: Kevin Willard. His overall Seton Hall record since he became coach in 2010 is 150-113 (62-82).
Outlook: Like almost every other Big East team, the theme for Seton Hall this year is roster turnover. They had some damn good players from last year’s starting lineup and now they’re doing some patchwork that will mostly be on the back of transfers and Myles Powell.
Powell will be the name you associate with the team next year. He’s a great shot creator and defender, while also being a steady leadership presence on a team that really needs it.
Their most important player will be Taurean Thompson, though. The Syracuse transfer was able to put up some really good numbers in his freshman campaign despite the fact that he was playing his home games in the worst arena in history. He was the go-to scorer when he was on the floor, shot 57.5% from inside the arc and ranked in the 98th percentile for his blocked shot rate. He’ll likely have a very similar role to the one Angel Delgado had, but with the added ability to provide the defense that Delgado was never really able to put together. Perhaps because he’s 15 pounds lighter.
The other transfer to keep your eye on is Quincy McKnight from Sacred Heart. He’ll go from the only semi-reliable scorer and point guard on a terrible team to the third option on a decent team. I imagine he’ll be running the point. I’m having a bit of an existential moment right now where I’m fully realizing how odd it is that I’m emitting some of my own precious energy into researching a decent player for an okay college basketball team in July. To add another layer onto that, you at least find the same concept interesting enough to read about it because you are. Huh.
Overall, they have a solid base of core players with some “meh” role players. The team will be decent. They’re ranked 27 on T-Rank’s preseason projections, which I think will end up being a bit optimistic.
I don’t think Kevin Willard is a good coach. The team fell apart at the seams during a three week stretch last year where they lost 6 of 8 games and it wasn’t that surprising. Their offense is really not fluid at all and completely reliant on getting second chances, which will be a lot harder to come by this year with the departure of maybe the best pure rebounder we’ve seen in the Big East since Dejuan Blair and his lack of ACL tendons.
Defensively they had trouble playing as a unit, despite three guards that were above average defenders, because Willard sucked at controlling his locker room. Delgado would often get too upset and play out of control, Carrington and Rodriguez would try too hard to get a breakaway steal, and Willard could never get a grip on his players.
Actually, I’ll walk back on that a little bit. Willard does put together decent teams, but they should be in a better position as a program than they currently are. I don’t know if that means he should be on the hot seat, but I really don’t envy the position that athletic department is in. [Editor’s note: I’m legitimately surprised that Kevin Willard voluntarily remained at Seton Hall this offseason. Seemed like a prime opportunity to bounce to a lateral job.]
The Pirates are in this basketball limbo where the reasonable expectation is an 8 or 9 seed. I don’t think that changes this year. They have enough talent to potentially reach the coveted “Second in the Big East” mark this year, but I wouldn’t count on it. Holy God above, I need college basketball to start.