The Seton Hall men’s basketball team will join Oklahoma, Virginia Tech and top-ranked Michigan State in the annual Coaches vs. Cancer classic, this Friday and Saturday at the Barclays Center.
The Pirates will take on Oklahoma in the first round on Friday and depending on the results of that night’s games, the Saturday match-ups will be set.
There is a possibility that the team will be able to play against Tom Izzo and the No. 1 Spartans.
Michigan State moved into the top spot in the country after knocking off the former number one, Kentucky in the State Farm Champions Classic.
The opportunity to play with three big-time programs has head coach Kevin Willard excit- ed but still cautious.
“Our first six games I knew would all be a battle.” Willard said.
The chance to play in new recruit Isaiah Whitehead’s back yard comes just one week after the Brooklyn native officially signed on to play for the Pirates.
The games will air on TruTv and on the call will be Greg Anthony and Brian Anderson.
Anthony, a former NBA star and 1990 NCAA champion at UNLV was an analyst for the tournament last year, the first at the Bar- clays Center.
“I got to be in the Barclays quite a few times.” Anthony said. “It’s an unbelievable venue and the fans in the Brooklyn area are as passionate as any.”
Anthony continues to be impressed by the Brooklyn arena, speaking without surprise that the popularity of the event was growing. “I got to do the Coaches vs Cancer last year and it was awesome,” Anthony said.
“You look at it this year and the Barclays is rapidly developing a reputation as one of the finest venues for major sporting events in the country. This weekend will add to that when you look that you have the number one team in the country coming in.”
970 AM talent and the voice of Seton Hall basketball, Gary Cohen, realized how playing a game with national exposure in the Brooklyn area and at the same time signing a local recruit could help the New York area recruiting.
“This is a great step,” Cohen said. “Since Kevin has been here he has shown very quickly that he’s a terrific X’s and O’s coach but recruiting particularly in the New York area has been a bit of a road block. But this is a tremendous step forward because you open the door and convince a class like this to come to your school. It feeds on itself.”
Next season, once his predecessor’s recruits finish their careers here, will mark the first time that Willard will have his roster filled with only his own recruits.
Willard will be able to cement what could be a long term tradition similar to legends like Izzo.
“Knowing Izzo, he doesn’t necessarily look in the mirror and consider himself a legend,” Anthony said. “But his legend is rapidly rising.”
Izzo has spent 19 seasons with the Spartans and has reached the NCAA tournament 16 times and racked up 443 wins.
With the prospect to play against Izzo and the top-ranked team looming on the horizon, Willard hasn’t lost sight of what his team first needs to do.
“Oklahoma is a tremendous basketball program,” Willard said. “To be on a national stage with three other really great teams is always a great opportunity.” The games will begin at 7 p.m. on Friday and the consolation will take place at the same time Saturday.
Gerard Gilberto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.