Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #14 Seton HallPosted by Dan Lyons on October 11th, 2012
Yesterday, we opened up our Big East season preview with a look at the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Today, we shoot up the Garden State to break down their in-state rivals, Seton Hall. Coming off of a bit of a surprising season led by two big-time seniors, head coach Kevin Willard is tasked with attempting to repeat that success by piecing together a group largely comprised of unproven talent and various transfer players.
2011-12 Record: 21-13, 8-10
2011-12 Postseason: 1-1 (NIT)
The Pirates face a solid non-conference slate. After opening with the Kangaroos of UMKC and Norfolk State at home, Seton Hall travels to Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut for the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off, where they will then face Washington and either Ohio State or Rhode Island. Later in the fall, the Pirates travel to Baton Rouge to take on middling SEC program LSU, and hit the road one more time to face a struggling Wake Forest program. Neither of these teams is a powerhouse at this point, but beating either could prove to be a nice recognizable win for Seton Hall. The Pirates close out the non-conference season with a rematch against Stony Brook, which they edged out 63-61 in the first round of last season’s NIT.
Seton Hall opens Big East play with a trip to the midwest to take on DePaul and Notre Dame. Seton Hall has home-and-homes with Louisville and Marquette, who look to be at the top of the conference again this season, as well as Providence and Rutgers, who should be a bit more manageable for the Pirates. They also host USF, Cincinnati, UConn, Syracuse, and Villanova at the Prudential Center. It will be interesting to see how the New Jersey fan base embraces Seton Hall this season, as “The Rock” may feel fairly dormant this winter with the NHL lockout bringing uncertainty to the Devils’ season and the Nets relocating to Brooklyn. Seton Hall may be the arena’s only home team for the time being.
The two biggest losses for Seton Hall this season are point guard Jordan Theodore and center Herb Pope, who were cornerstones of the program for a number of years. Theodore was one of the Big East’s most underrated guards last year, leading the Hall with 16.1 points and 6.6 assists per game, including a breakout 29-point performance in a 73-55 upset of Georgetown. Pope was a force in the middle, averaging 15.1 points per game, and was second in the conference in rebounding (10.4 RPG).
Willard didn’t bring in a huge recruiting class – his only freshman is guard Tom Maayan – but he will look for a number of transfers to make an impact this season. Juniors Brian Oliver and Gene Teague are both eligible this season after sitting out in 2011-12, and grad student Kyle Smyth is eligible immediately after graduating from Iona. Mayaan is coming off of a torn ACL and may be a bit limited at the start of the season, while Texas transfer Sterling Gibbs had his waiver request denied by the NCAA, so he will not see time this season for the Pirates.
Whom to Watch
With the departure of Theodore and Pope, this becomes junior forward Fuquan Edwin‘s team. Edwin is an incredibly versatile player, and should be the team leader on both ends of the court. He was third on the team in scoring (12.5 PPG) last year, second in rebounding (6.2 RPG), and first in the nation in steals (2.9 SPG). Edwin can score from inside and out, and has been steadily improving his jump shot while at Seton Hall, hitting 37% of his shots from three last season. Sophomore Aaron Cosby is coming off of a good freshman campaign where he scored 7.9 points per game and added another reliable threat from behind the arc. Brian Oliver should make an impact on the wing as well. In 2010-11 with Georgia Tech, he averaged 10.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Interestingly enough, his best career performance was in a loss to Syracuse in Atlantic City. Though the Jackets couldn’t overcome the Orange, Oliver torched the 2-3 zone for 32 points and six three-pointers.
Any time a team loses its two star players and attempts to create a rotation using a large number of unknown parts, it is going to undergo some growing pains, especially in a league as deep and demanding as the Big East. Edwin should have a big junior year and may find himself on some end of the year all-conference lists, and the Pirates will probably have a surprise win or two, but overall, I expect a shaky season. On the bright side, the Pirates have a lot of young talent and are only expected to lose Smyth after this season. After this season, the Pirates will be facing an easier conference slate with the departures of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame, so 2013-14 could be a breakout year for Willard, Edwin, and company.