Seton Hall MBB makes 1st Top 25 appearance since 2012

Seton Hall Athletics

One of the Top 25 teams in the country resides in the village of South Orange, N.J.

Yes, it’s true.

In just under 100 hours, the Seton Hall men’s basketball program made history last week, and now the Pirates have received their due recognition.

The Hall was ranked No. 19 in both the Associated Press and Coaches Polls on Monday, giving the Pirates their first appearance in the polls since 2012. It is the first time that SHU has found itself in the top 20 since January 23, 2001, when the Pirates came in at No. 16.

Before last week, the Pirates had a win over a three-loss George Washington team that is receiving 39 votes in this week’s poll. The Hall also had collected a top 100 win over Rutgers and won the Paradise Jam Championship in the Virgin Islands.

While the Pirates were receiving votes in last week’s Coaches Poll, Seton Hall still did not have the big win that it would take to lift the program back into the poll. The Pirates have two now, after winning back-to-back games over ranked opponents for the first time since 2006. A 78-67 win over previously ranked #15 St. John’s gave SHU a strong start, but the shocking 66-61 win over previous #6 Villanova catapulted the Pirates into the national conversation again.

“It’s a great recognition for our guys because it shows that their hard work can be rewarded,” fifth-year head coach Kevin Willard said. “These guys have come in with a great attitude every day. Now, it’s fitting that they’ve been recognized.”

Seton Hall (12-2) is one of three teams in the poll, with Villanova checking in at #8 and St. John’s at #24. Butler, Georgetown, and Xavier are all receiving votes as the Big East Conference continued to receive a lot of love from the voters.

Seton Hall Athletics

The 12-2 start is the best since 1999-2000. That year, Shaheen Holloway, now an associate coach under Kevin Willard, led the Pirates to the Sweet 16.

The Hall’s resurgence into the rankings wasn’t the only story making news for the blue and white on Monday. Guard Sterling Gibbs was named the CBS Sports National Player of the Week and the Big East Player of the Week. Gibbs has won the conference’s player of the week award twice this season. The junior averaged 22.5 points and six assists in the Pirates’ two wins. Gibbs is also shooting 50 percent (33-66) from beyond the three-point arc. Gibbs finished with 31 triples in all 32 appearances that he made last season, shooting just 34 percent. The emergence of his jumper has taken his game to the next level.

“He’s not human right now,” freshman Khadeen Carrington said.

“It’s a great honor to be able to represent my team,” Gibbs said. “For us to get two statement wins at home was just huge. We needed that, and there wasn’t much room for error. But, we have to move forward. If we get hung up, things could go wrong.”

The Pirates reached another special milestone on Monday, with their third Big East Rookie of the Week award winner. It’s the first time that the program has had three such winners of the honor since 1985-86, as Carrington took home the award. He finished with 14 points per game last week and had 17 in Saturday’s win over Villanova, including a clutch bucket with just under two minutes left in overtime to put the Pirates ahead, 62-61.

“The coaches did so much to get us at this point,” Carrington said. “It’s so huge for this program.”

While the Pirates are one of the youngest teams in America, Willard doesn’t think of that as a bad thing.

“It’s been huge that these guys know each other,” Willard said. “It’s changed our attitude. There’s a level of understanding between our leaders because they once had to listen to veterans. I think the enthusiasm level of our freshmen to learn has been the most special. There are no bad attitudes on this team.”

The Pirates take that momentum into a road showdown at Xavier on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Musketeers are averaging nearly 80 points per game to top the conference, so the Pirates will be in a deep test. For more on that match-up, stick to thesetonian.com for coverage.

John Fanta can be reached at john.fanta@student.shu.edu or on Twitter @John_Fanta.

Author: John Fanta

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