The early-season challenges for the men’s basketball team and new head coach Kevin Willard are set to continue this weekend, as the Pirates head to the 2010 Paradise Jam for three games – potentially all against major conference opponents.
The tournament, hosted by the University of the Virgin Islands in St. Thomas, pits the Hall against Alabama on Friday night. Depending on the outcome, Seton Hall can meet either Iowa or Xavier over the weekend before concluding its three-game stint at the event on Monday.
The Paradise Jam dates back to 2001 and has become a well-recognized early season tournament.
In last year’s tournament, Purdue defeated Tennessee, 73-72, to win the event.
In addition to the possible opponents slated for the Hall in the first two games, Paradise Jam participants include Clemson, Long Beach State, Old Dominion and local rival Saint Peter’s.
Seton Hall’s opening foe, Alabama, knocked off Florida A&M at home to open its season and then defeated Troy to start its season at 2-0.
The Crimson Tide were picked to finish third in the Western Division of the SEC in the league’s preseason coaches’ poll, according to the conference’s Web site.
Junior JaMychal Green leads the Crimson Tide, averaging 15.5 points per game this season, while second on the team with seven rebounds per game. Green was named All-SEC First Team for the preseason.
Iowa could become an intriguing match-up for the Hall in the second round, as the Hawkeyes are led by head coach Fran McCaffery. McCaffery was widely considered a finalist for Seton Hall’s coaching vacancy this spring after three-straight NCAA Tournament appearances with Siena.
The Hawkeyes are expected to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten this year according to multiple unofficial preseason rankings.
Xavier may be the team with the highest expectations in this tournament’s group, picked to finish second in the Atlantic 10 this year by the league’s coaches – only behind Temple, a team that defeated the Pirates on Friday.
It was a close call for the Musketeers at home in their season opener on Friday, as they defeated Western Michigan by the slim margin of 68-65.
On Tuesday, Xavier defeated IPFW 76-66 behind a team effort with five players scoring in double figures.
For even more perspective, Xavier (nine seed) and Old Dominion (13 seed) are the only two teams in the Paradise Jam field that ESPN basketball analyst Joe Lunardi projects to make the NCAA Tournament, according to his “Bracketology” page on ESPN.com.
He does, however, have Clemson listed as one of the first four teams out of the tournament field according to his projections on Nov. 10.
The Pirates will begin their time in St. Thomas at 6 p.m. on Friday against the Crimson Tide.
Brian Wisowaty can be reached at