Loss of Whitehead doesn’t rule out NCAA Tournament

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Seton Hall men’s basketball will still experience success this season without Isaiah Whitehead. Joey Khan/Photography and Digital Editor.

One player doesn’t make a program, but Seton Hall will have its work cut out after losing Isaiah Whitehead.

Whitehead’s gamble to leave for the NBA paid off for him, as he now has a job with the Brooklyn Nets. The Pirates, however, are missing their star point guard from a year ago.

Let’s get the obvious out there: Seton Hall won the Big East Tournament last season and had its first NCAA Tournament berth in 10 years.

Various players stepped up to make all that happen, but Whitehead was the focal point of that team.

He facilitated the offense. He gave big point contributions. He made the tough shots.

While all of that will be missed, it is not the end of the world for Seton Hall. Others will step up.

Seton Hall has four returning starters: Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez, Khadeen Carrington and Ismael Sanogo. They are four juniors that all took big steps last season, and will need to continue to do so this season in order to make the Tournament.

Rodriguez broke out as a role player last season, and almost no one saw it coming. He jumped from 16.6 minutes and 5.6 points per game to 26 minutes and 12.4 points per game.

This season, he’ll have to do even more.

The same goes for Delgado and Sanogo. The former has been working on his jumper, while the latter will continue to bring his gritty defense as he improves his inside game.

Carrington is next in line to spend more time at point. He did play regular minutes at the position last season, but this season is a different animal. The time there will be split with players such as Madison Jones and Jevon Thomas, once eligible, but the new role will once again be crucial in defining his, and the team’s, game.

Whitehead’s absence allows others to step up. They’ve done so before, and they’ll do it again this season.

There are key pieces outside of the junior starters, too.

An exciting piece of this new team is Myles Powell. Automatic from the three-point line, he’s going to add a threat that Seton Hall lacked last season.

Then there’s the bench. Outside shooter Veer Singh has put on muscle and will be tested out at the four at times this season. Michael Nzei has put in a good offseason to become more of a rotation player. Rashed Anthony is another junior also looking to log more minutes in the frontcourt.

Head coach Willard put it best: “No one is all of a sudden going to replace a guy that’s playing for the Brooklyn Nets.” It’s a group effort. Most of last year’s team returns with both Big East rings and the Tournament experience.

In 2014-15, the team knew what it felt like to be successful, then lose a lot. In 2015-16, the team knew what it felt like to win, outplay expectations, become champions, then fall short in the Tournament. If the trend continues in 2016-17, this team will take what it learned and use it as motivation to get back to March Madness.

The team will also look to become back-to-back Big East Champions. Will it happen? Without a player proven to make the big shot yet, it’s natural to be skeptical. But, as we all know, this team likes being underestimated.

Seton Hall just missed the top-25 in USA Today preseason coaches poll, getting ranked at No. 32, after all.

No Whitehead? It’s a problem, but not one that can’t be accounted for. Even with a tough schedule, Seton Hall men’s basketball will make the NCAA Tournament again. The seed may not be as high, but with experience and a program that is no stranger to adjustments, the newcomers and returning group will get it done.

We’ll just have to see if they make it past the first round this time.

Elizabeth Swinton is a television production major from Linden, N.J. She can be reached at elizabeth.swinton@student.shu.edu or on Twitter @eswint22.

Author: Elizabeth Swinton

Elizabeth Swinton is a television production major at Seton Hall University where she serves as Sports Editor of The Setonian. In addition, Swinton is a social media specialist and contributing writer for The Brooklyn Game. You can follow her on Twitter @eswint22

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