For the first time in 10 years, fans of the Seton Hall Pirates got to see their team on national television next to powerhouses like Kansas and Kentucky on Selection Sunday as they prepare for their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2006.
The Pirates were given a No. 6 seed, which is their highest ranking for March Madness since 1993, when they were No. 2. And while there’s no need to be upset about where they’ve been placed, you can make a real argument that they de- served better.
Over the last two weeks, Seton Hall has taken down three top-five opponents. The team has won 12 of its last 14 games, with both losses coming against Butler. The Pirates beat No. 5 Xavier in their last Big East home game, then proceeded to beat them again in the second round of the Big East Tournament before taking down No. 3 Villanova to seal their first title in 23 years.
On top of that, the entire starting lineup is made up of sophomores. Last year, Seton Hall was 16-15 and finished off the year by losing eight of their last nine games. Kevin Willard turned it into a 25-8 team. SHU was projected to finish seventh in the Big East and wound up finishing third.
Many experts had Seton Hall losing to Creighton in the first- round game of the conference tournament, and SHU went on to win the whole thing.
This team has defied expectations all season long—and it has yet to get fair credit.
With a young squad and lofty expectations from Pirates fans, it’s pretty impressive what they were able to accomplish and how well they have done. They get rewarded with a first-round matchup against No. 11-seeded Gonzaga with potential matchups with Utah and Michigan State down the road.
However, this is a team some people are picking as their sleeper, and for very good reason. Despite the tough bracket and the virtual away game in Denver, there are a lot of reasons to feel positive about the Pirates’ chances moving forward.
Momentum can’t be understated in these tournaments. There have been a lot of Cinderella teams that make runs through March, and a lot of it has to do with the mentality of the players. The Pirates come into the tournament following an impressive Big East title win and wins in eight of their last nine games.
This team also has all the confidence in the world.
“Whoever we play just better watch out,” Isaiah Whitehead said after beating Villanova. “We really defend at a high level.
“When we get on the break, it’s hard to stop us. It really doesn’t matter who we play. We’re up for the challenge”
Whitehead is playing just as well as any player in the country right now, and he’s surrounded by a solid team that is deep at every position.
All you need is one streaking player and a well-rounded, confident team to create some upsets.
Khadeen Carrington has been a great secondary outlet at the guard position, even scoring 50 points in the first two games of the Big East Tournament combined.
Desi Rodriguez has developed into a strong two-way forward. Angel Delgado is a great rebounder and averages 10 points per game. Ismael Sanogo has been complimented by coaches around the league for his elite defensive play.
Whitehead—averaging 25.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists over the last seven games—is ready to prove that he’s a first-round pick for the NBA.
Playing in the Big East has prepared the Pirates to deal with any- thing that comes their way. Playing against big centers like Daniel
Ochefu and Henry Ellenson will help them deal with players like Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis on Gonzaga. They’re well-prepared and hungry to win.
Don’t sleep on the Pirates.
Bobby Bevilacqua can be reached at robert.bevilacqua.student.shu.edu or on twitter @rpb725.