You knew it was happening Saturday night at the Garden. At least I did.
After covering the men’s basketball team throughout this season and over the course of the entirety of the Big East Tournament, one thing is clear: This team is different.
Different than the Jordan Theodore-led squad in 2011-12 and far different than the team back in 2013-14 – a team that was two wins away from winning the conference tournament.
This year’s team has a refuse-to-lose type of attitude, which makes Sunday’s seeding almost irrelevant. People are forgetting this team was picked to finish seventh in the conference at the season’s start. Now? Well, now the Pirates are the best in the Big East.
You could tell last Thursday night that – despite Cole Huff hitting everything under the sun – Seton Hall had a grip on No. 6-seeded Creighton. You just knew on Friday night that Big East Co-Coach of the Year Kevin Willard was not going to blow a comfortable second half lead to Chris Mack, the guy many thought should have gotten the accolade over him. And in Saturday night’s finale, you knew Seton Hall wanted it – badly.
It’s hard to beat a team three times in a year. But it was even harder to tell this group that Villanova would be coming into their backyard to beat them a third time, especially after coming so close in the two previous meetings this season.
You knew it, and so did the players.
“I knew we would win this game,” sophomore Desi Rodri- guez said after the win on Saturday.
“Honestly, we’re not losing this game, we’ve been in this situation before,” senior Derrick Gordon added post-game as he donned the net his team cut down follow- ing the win.
The Pirates are going dancing for the first time in a decade.
When I came to college three and a half years ago, I had one wish: to see the basketball team in the NCAA Tournament before I graduated. Having it happen in my senior year is icing on the cake, but it’s more of a Cinderella story on a larger scale.
Willard said his players are bringing the pride back to Seton Hall basketball during Sunday’s Selection Show party in Walsh Gym. I’ve heard numerous times this past weekend from fellow stu- dents how exciting a time this is.
The Pirates will open up their potential run on Thursday in Denver against a perennial tournament team in Gonzaga. Could the Pirates have gotten more help from the committee when brackets were finalized? Yeah, maybe. But does it matter?
In my opinion, no. These Pirates are special – as Willard repeated over and over throughout every winning press conference he gave last weekend at MSG.
Special and absolutely hungry. Isaiah Whitehead himself told reporters Saturday night that whoever the Pirates play “better watch out.”
March is all about guard play and Whitehead is playing as well as anyone in the country right now. The complements of Khadeen Carrington’s offensive savvy and big man Angel Delgado’s presence in the paint have created a three-headed monster in South Orange. Also, the Pirates wouldn’t be in the position they are now without the defensive brilliance of Ismael Sanogo.
Whitehead, who won Big East Tournament MVP, declared Sanogo more deserving of the honor.
The main thing is these Pirates are different. They have adapted throughout the entire season for this goal. But they’ve been ready for a while. While most of the country is unfamiliar with small school Seton Hall and how it got here, this group has known all along that March was coming.
You can worry about drawing a tricky matchup against Gonzaga in an undesirable location, or you can sit back and enjoy Seton Hall’s resurgence to relevancy. People have waited a long time for this.
The Pirates are back. Where they go from here should be fun to watch.
David Heim is a senior journalism major from Roselle Park, N.J. He can be reached at david.heim@ student.shu.edu or on Twitter @davidheim12.