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2020-21 Big East Women’s Basketball Team Preview: Seton Hall Pirates

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Do the Pirates have what it takes to make it to the postseason this year?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 02 Women’s St Peter’s at Seton Hall
Desiree Elmore gets top billing on the SHU roster heading into this season.
Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Team: Seton Hall Pirates

2019-20 Record: 19-12, 11-7 in the Big East

2019-20 Big East Finish: Part of that oh so magical five way tie for third place in the league. Tiebreakers gave the Pirates the #4 seed in the conference tournament.

Final 2019-20 Her Hoop Stats Ranking: #43

Postseason Projection: They weren’t in the last projection from High Post Hoops, although if they had managed to knock off DePaul in the Big East semifinals instead of losing by three, who can say? It feels like they would have been good enough for a WNIT bid had that been a thing back in the spring.

Key Departures: While there are seven names I’m tracking as no longer on the Seton Hall roster from last season, only four of them were notable contributors last season and three of them were seniors. Two of them were Seton Hall’s top two scorers last season. Shadeen Samuels led the way with 14.3 points per game, while Alexis Lewis was not that far behind at 13.3 per game. Both women were north of six rebounds per game as well and Samuels was good for nearly three assists each time out, too. Barbara Johnson appeared in all 31 games and started 26 of them for the Pirates last season. She averaged 7.9 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.0 assists per game. Selena Philoxy is an interesting case here as she appeared in 17 games for Seton Hall and started seven times as a junior..... but did not appear in another game after January 12th. I can’t figure out exactly what happened to the junior there, but I can tell you 1) she’s not listed on the 2019-20 roster any more and 2) she transferred to Stetson even though she’ll have to sit out a season.

Key Returners: While the top two scorers from last year are gone now, four of the next five on the scoring output list are back for another go-round. That list starts with Desiree Elmore, who averaged 13.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.4 assists last season. The 5’10” Connecticut native earned preseason all-conference honors from the Big East, so clearly the league’s coaches are expecting big things from her in her senior season.

Mya Jackson is next, after a super-sub freshman season where she averaged 10.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game. She started in five of her 27 appearances, but still averaged nearly 27 minutes per game of action. It’s probably safe to say that her minutes won’t change all that much for this season. Jackson’s 40% success rate from long range was best on the team a year ago and she was second on the team in attempts. I’m going to guess that she might shoot more often as a sophomore.

Lauren Park-Lane and Jasmine Smith round out the list of every night rotation players returning in 2020-21. Park-Lane had a great freshman season, starting in all 31 games and leading the team in assists at 4.2 per game. Jasmine Smith chipped in 15 minutes per game as a junior last year, and added 3.0 points, 1.1 rebounds, and just under an assist in terms of counting stats.

We should probably include Alexia Allesch here in terms of notable contributors. She missed about a month of the season before the first of the year, but still appeared in 22 games and averaged just under 10 minutes per game. The Pirates weren’t really relying on much from the 6’1” New Jersey native, but she’s got experience playing with this team, especially after sitting out the 2018-19 season following her transfer from UMass.

Key Additions: Curtessia Dean comes in as a junior college transfer from Trinity Valley, where she was a NJCAA All-American in both of her seasons. The 5’10” guard from Louisiana averaged 19.3 points, which led the team, along with 5.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.6 steals last season. Seton Hall has another transfer listed on the roster in Mya Bembry, but since she’s coming over from playing in 30 games for Penn State last year as a freshman, I’m going to presume that she’s not eligible. Then again, she’s from West Orange in Jersey, so I’m not 100% sure there.

There are four freshmen listed on the roster for the Pirates. Blue Star has all four of them, ESPN shows only three, and Prospects Nation has none. Fun! According to Blue Star, all four freshmen come in somewhere between #140 in the country and #210. That’s not too bad. Amari Wright (5’9”, #143) is the top prospect in the group after averaging 17.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and — no, I’m not kidding here — 6.0 steals per game as a senior in Jacksonville. Skylar Treadwell (6’1”, #153) was the local paper’s Player and Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in West Virginia. 18.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.6 steals, and 2.2 blocks per game is pretty good stuff, no matter where you’re playing your prep ball.

While Wright and Treadwell are kind of close together in the Blue Star rankings, the same can be said for Britany Range (5’10”, #190) and McKenna Minter (5’7”, #207). That’s starting to veer away from the ranking range that you’d expect to see for immediate impact players. Seton Hall has pretty decent depth returning, so they might have to knock the coaching staff’s socks off to get on the court a decent amount.

Coach: Tony Bozzella, entering his 21st season as a head coach in Division 1 and eighth season at Seton Hall. He has a record of 113-92 with the Pirates, 299-306 in Division 1, and 419-410 as a collegiate head coach.

Outlook: Is it weird that I feel like I kind of talked myself into liking Seton Hall’s team when putting together everything on the page above this sentence?

I mean, sure, trying to replace the 27-28 points per game from Shadeen Samuels and Alexis Lewis isn’t going to be a picnic. But Seton Hall was picked to finish fifth in the league this season for a reason. There’s a lot of talented players left on this roster that maybe, just maybe, had the Pirates on the verge of an NCAA tournament bid. While Desiree Elmore is a preseason all-Big East honoree, I suspect that she might not be the most important returning player for Seton Hall.

When you’re trying to offset the loss of your top two scorers from the previous season, it generally speaking helps to have a reliable point guard returning. That’s what the Pirates have in Lauren Park-Lane. Even better, Park-Lane was a reliable point guard as a freshman last year, so it’s perfectly reasonable to think that she’s ready to accept more responsibility in the scoring department. Last year, Seton Hall was #88 in the country in assist rate per Her Hoop Stats. A lot of that is because Park-Lane personally ranked #238 in the country and topped the team in that regard. Desiree Elmore wasn’t exactly a stranger at helping set up her two more potent scoring teammates either, and that’s a good base for Tony Bozzella to build from for this year’s offense.

Defense, on the other hand, may be a work in progress. Losing four notable contributors from your defensive end isn’t necessarily good news. Then again, there’s questions to be asked about Seton Hall’s defensive ability last season. Sure, Her Hoop Stats ranks them #62 in the country, but there’s underlying problems. #123 in points allowed per 100 possessions? #269 in two-point defense? #262 in effective field goal defense? #299 in three-point rate? That’s a big ol’ bag of yikes.

A lot of the positivity from HHS on the defensive end may come from Seton Hall’s outstanding rebounding. They ranked #108 in the country in defensive rebounding rate last season, and that’s pretty good stuff. However, Elmore is the only one of the top five rebounders on last year’s team that’s back this season. #6 was Mya Jackson, and she only hauled in 2.3 caroms per game. SHU is going to need people to step up in a big way here as Elmore can’t do much better than her 7.2/game from last season. In addition to that, she might be asked to do less rebounding if she’s going to be doing more to carry the offensive load for the Pirates.

There’s a bunch of players on this roster with experience playing for Tony Bozzella, so that’s good. I like Bozzella as a coach, or at least from a tactician’s perspective. His in-game mannerisms leave something to be desired as an outside observer, but you can count on his teams being pretty competitive. I like their chances to mold the returning players into a cohesive unit on the floor. If they can get something useful from Curtessia Dean as an immediately eligible junior college transfer and have at least one of the freshmen make their way into the rotation, then I think Seton Hall might just be able to find their way into a postseason conversation again in 2021. Is that an NCAA tournament, which would be their first since 2016? I dunno.