Seton Hall Basketball News and Notes: June 10th

Date: June 10, 2014

by John Fanta

coard willard

Isaiah Whitehead and the stellar backcourt that Seton Hall is expected to have for the 2014-15 season will meet a mighty challenge in the Pirates' nonconference slate. With rising juniors Ron Baker (13.1 ppg in 2013-14) and Fred VanVleet (11.6 ppg in 2013-14) back, the Wichita State Shockers will be a contender to make noise in the Big Dance once again.

The Pirates will take on Wichita State in Kansas in the upcoming season on December 9 before hosting the Shockers in 2015. Sports Illustrated has the Shockers slated at No. 12 in an early poll for the upcoming year, and why shouldn't they? Under Gregg Marshall, the Shockers have made it the NCAA Tournament in three straight years, including a Final Four berth in 2012-13. After going 35-0 up until their Round of 32 game against eventual national runner-up Kentucky, the Shockers fell on a missed triple by VanVleet, ending a remarkable season. To be the best, one must beat the best, but it's more than safe to say that the Shockers received a tough draw with Kentucky, Duke, Louisville, and Michigan all with them in the Midwest Region.

While All American Cleanthony Early (16.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg in 2013-14) graduated, Tekele Cotton joins Baker and Vanvleet in a strong backcourt. Darius Carter, a good defender at forward, will be back for his senior season after averaging nearly eight points a game. The absence of Early certainly is a help for SHU. The Pirates will have a young frontcourt with Brandon Mobley back as a senior. Outside of him, Angel Delgado and newest addition Michael Nzei out of Our Savior will be the bolts down low with Chier Ajou not eligible to play until January.

After a 2013-14 in which the Pirates held an RPI of 128, Kevin Willard has added a number of solid opponents for a hyped-up roster. The home match-up with George Washington is set for November 29 at the Prudential Center. The Pirates will face one of the six Atlantic 10 teams that received a bid to the Big Dance last season, as the Colonials went 24-9. After beating UMass at the Barclays Center, VCU dominated George Washington in the A-10 semis, 74-55. GW followed to get bumped in its first game in the tournament, losing by five to Memphis. The Colonials lose leading scorer Maurice Creek and rebounder Isaiah Armwood, but rising junior Kethan Savage will be back leading the backcourt. He averaged 12.7 points per game last season with 4.3 boards and nearly three assists. Savage missed some time after a left foot fracture, but still was a special talent when he was able to contribute. It could be a down year for GW, with seniors who left their mark no longer with the program. It will be a nice test for the Pirates at home, as the Colonials come off a season in which they held an RPI at 29.

Kadeem Jack could pose a really tough test for The Hall's frontcourt when he and Rutgers come calling to Newark in December. The Scarlet Knights will need all the wins they can get, and with Jack (14.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg in 13-14) and Myles Mack as seniors, there's an under-the-radar level of overlooking being done with Rutgers. It doesn't appear as if they'll do much in the Big Ten, but with a schedule that is beyond demanding, the Scarlet Knights will be seeking revenge after SHU took the previous match-up in Piscataway, 77-71. Yes, it was a brutal 12-21 for RU, but with two seniors leading the way, the Scarlet Knights should make a step forward in the upcoming season.

Led by rising junior guard Charles Mann, the Georgia Bulldogs will host the Pirates in the upcoming season on December 21. The Bulldogs made it to the second round of the NIT before losing to Louisiana Tech last year. Georgia has extended head coach Mark Fox, who led the team to a third-place finish in the SEC last season. With a good forward in Marcus Thornton back as a senior, Georgia has the balance to have a solid season in a weaker league.

With meetings against a solid Mount St. Mary's team, along with USF and the Paradise Jam, the Pirates will play some very respectable opponents within the tough tests. The Hall takes on Nevada before potentially facing Clemson.

Nevada finished the regular season in a tie for third in the Mountain West with a 10-8 league record. The loss of senior guard Deonte Burton (20.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.4 apg) will certainly affect the Wolfpack. Second leading scorer Cole Huff has recently transferred to Creighton, so the program has so retooling to do for November head coach David Carter, who will be entering his sixth season.

The Pirates will either face the Tigers, a familiar foe in the Virgin Islands, or Gardner Webb in the second game in invitational play. In 2010, The Hall and Clemson went into overtime before the Tigers pulled away to win 64-58, despite Jeff Robinson's 16 points.

The tournament does feature other very respectable programs, with LSU, Old Dominion, Illinois State, and Weber State featured in the bracket as well.

There's no question that a young class will be thrown into the fire, but Whitehead, Desi Rodriguez, Khadeen Carrington, and Angel Delgado recently played in the Mary Kline Classic in West Orange and have some experience on the court together. The credit goes to Willard for organizing such a talented group, but that means nothing come November, because then, it's time for Seton Hall MBB to begin to transition the program back to where it was in 2006, in the NCAA Tournament.

Just a Reminder: Just a limited number of seats are available for this year's Seton Hall Athletics Hall of Fame enshrinement on Wednesday, June 18. Bill Raftery will emcee the event as Coach P.J. Carlesimo will return to historic Walsh Gymnasium along with the 1988-89 national runner-up team for the induction. For more info, contact Seton Hall athletics.

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