Season In Review: Seton Hall PiratesPosted by mlemaire on April 26th, 2013
Having lost their two best players in point guard Jordan Theodore and burly forward Herb Pope, the Pirates were not expected to make a lot of noise in the Big East this season and it became quickly apparent that Kevin Willard‘s team was not only less talented but also severely undermanned against the rest of the conference. The team finished the season 15-18 and a dismal 3-15 in conference play with two of those wins coming against the teams that finished behind them in the conference standings (South Florida and DePaul). None of this was surprising to those who followed the team and knew that the Pirates would struggle mightily to replace the production of Pope and Theodore, but if they had been slightly more competitive, it would have at least given Willard something to point to as far as improvement goes. Let’s dive a bit deeper into why Seton Hall wasn’t able to right the ship this season.
When your best win as a team was either a four-point win over Wake Forest or a one-point win over Villanova, it can be hard to find positives in what quickly became a lost season. But there were some individual positives, such as the play of junior guard Fuquan Edwin, who was always one of the best defenders in the conference but actually emerged as a versatile and dangerous offensive threat for the Pirates this season. Sophomore guard Aaron Cosby became a dangerous outside shooter and important offensive cog, and before his season ended prematurely thanks to shoulder surgery, sophomore forward Brandon Mobley was putting together a solid season and should be an important piece to next year’s team. Despite falling drastically in both offensive and defensive efficiency this season, the Pirates were still relatively judicious shot-takers and they were also an above-average defensive team, at least when they played inspired basketball.
The injury bug hit an already depleted roster hard this past season as Patrik Auda — a long forward Willard was counting on to play big minutes — played in just four games before bowing out for the rest of the season with a broken bone in his foot, and Mobley missed the second half of the conference schedule after having shoulder surgery. Cosby may have put together a decent season in terms of productivity, but it was the worst-kept secret in New Jersey that Cosby was unhappy in the program, and lo and behold, once the season ended, Cosby bounced from South Orange and landed in Champaign, Illinois, where he will sit out a season before suiting up for the Illini. The Pirates’ defense regressed badly, Georgia Tech transfer Brian Oliver was supposed to be a shooting threat but instead turned into one of the most inefficient offensive players on the team, and the team had absolutely nobody who could play point guard effectively, thus quickly becoming one of the most turnover-prone teams in the entire country. Basically the Pirates had five players capable of playing Big East basketball last season, and even if those five players had been the conference’s best at each position, it still would have been difficult for the team to be successful because of its inexperienced and overwhelmed bench unit.
Unlike the two teams that finished below them in the conference standings, there is legitimate hope on the immediate horizon for the Pirates and Willard. Losing Cosby and his outside shooting touch will hurt, but Edwin decided to spurn the NBA Draft for another season with the Pirates, and with Oliver and big-bodied center Eugene Teague both coming back for their senior seasons in South Orange, there is a useful nucleus of holdovers to work with. Auda and Mobley are expected to be back next season and finally healthy, and Texas transfer Sterling Gibbs is eligible after sitting out last season and will be first in line to replace Cosby’s production and presence in the starting lineup. Perhaps most importantly, Willard smartly brought former Rutgers’ head coach and recruiting whiz Fred Hill on to the staff earlier this month and the move immediately payed dividends when top-100 recruit Jaren Sina committed to the Pirates shortly thereafter. Sina is a lethal shooter and, more importantly, a legitimate floor general who will finally give Willard a legitimate point guard, even if he does experience plenty of growing pains in the process. The other incoming recruit is undersized junior college forward Stephane Manga, but Pirates’ fans will really get to see Hill work his magic in next season’s recruiting class. Still, if the Pirates don’t start to show major signs of improvement this season, Willard might not even be around to enjoy the fruits of Hill’s labor.