Four games remain in the 2015-16 regular season for the men’s basketball team. Those eight halves of basketball separate the Pirates from the ultimate college goal of an NCAA Tourna- ment bid.
First up will be the Providence Friars on Thursday, Feb. 24.
The first meeting between the Pirates and then-No. 12 Provi- dence ended in an 81-72 road vic- tory for SHU. Led by sophomore Khadeen Carrington’s 22 points and Isaiah Whitehead’s 15 points, seven assists and five rebounds, the Pirates were able to bounce National Player of the Year candidate Kris Dunn and the Friars out of their own gym.
Carrington knows the importance of containing Dunn, who got himself into foul trouble while primarily being covered by Derrick Gordon last time he played the Pirates.
“I think we did a good job of not giving him open looks,” Carrington said. “Everything he had, he had to work for. Once you take him away, the other guys on the floor are gonna struggle.”
Sitting at third place in the Big East, the Pirates are 19-7 with a 9-5 conference record. The suc- cess of this season comes on the heels of disaster last February that saw the same core group of players fumble the second half of the schedule and drop all the way from a No. 19 national ranking to no postseason play at all.
With the late-season collapse came doubt to start this season, as the Pirates were picked to finish seventh in the conference before the season started. In spite of that ranking, the Pirates were one of three teams to boast more than one player to preseason all-conference teams. Whitehead and forward Angel Delgado were both slated to make the All-Big East second team.
Carrington remembers the preseason diss, but didn’t pay much attention to what others were expecting from his team.
“I definitely thought it was too low,” Carrington said. “At that point, I remember what I said. I said, ‘That’s just preseason rank- ings and everybody gotta play.’ I think we did a good job at just coming out and playing and not worrying about things like that.”
Coming out and playing is just what the Pirates did. Beating Providence on the road gave the team a signature away win that the NCAA committee looks for on Selection Sunday.
The Pirates have continued to battle the second half of the season, winning six of their last seven, but still no national love is shown towards South Orange. The Friars hold a worse record than the Pirates, 19-8 overall with a 7-7 conference showing, yet still hold the No. 24 ranking in the USA Today Coaches Poll. This week the Pirates received just six votes in that poll.
“Last year we got ranked, and as soon as we got ranked the ship just sailed,” Carrington said about not getting national recognition. “We’re not really worried about stuff like that. We’re just worried about continuing to build our résumé to get into the NCAA Tournament.”
Dennis Chambers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. edu or on Twitter @DennisCham- bers_.