Willard, players react to second straight NCAA Tournament bid

Instead of watching the NCAA Selection Show in Walsh Gym with fans as Seton Hall men’s basketball did last season, the players decided to gather in a more quaint setting of coach Kevin Willard’s home.

“I think last year was more to celebrate the Big East Championship,” Willard said. “I think this year, the way the year kind of played out, as much of a grind as it was to get to where we got, I think these guys just wanted a nice night with themselves and with their teammates.”

Joey Khan/Photography and Digital Editor

When Willard found out that his team would be a No. 9 seed, playing No. 8-seed Arkansas in Greenville, S.C. on Friday, March 17 at 1:30 p.m. on TNT, he was pleased with being closer to home and getting an extra day to prepare.

“I think playing on Friday is actually great, it gives us another day of rest, it gives us another day of preparation,” Willard said. “Staying on the east coast, I think it gives much more fans to be able to get to it, Greenville is not too far away.”

Khadeen Carrington enjoyed hearing the team’s name being called again this year on the Selection Show.

“It’s a great feeling, the second year in a row,” Carrington said. “Everybody is excited, everybody is ready to get started working on Arkansas and just enjoy the grind, play to get the win.”

In terms of facing Arkansas, Willard knows that this is going to be a tough matchup, as any game in the NCAA Tournament is.

“No matter who you get, you’re gonna have a tough draw,” Willard said. “I’ve only been able to read and look at the stats for Arkansas, but when you’re 12-6 in the SEC and you win 25 games, you’re a really good basketball team, so getting an extra day of preparation is good when you have to play such a good team as Arkansas is.”

Seton Hall hasn’t won a NCAA Tournament game in 13 years, but after going to the Tournament last year, the team has some experience under its belt to try and get a win this time around.

“It definitely helps a lot,” Carrington said on last year’s experience. “Last year, we all went through it. It was kind of tough to handle and everything, but we kind of know what to expect more. Me, Angel [Delgado], Desi [Rodriguez], we’re just going to try to focus on the younger guys and tell them what to expect.”

For Delgado, he’s ready to work hard and get that win.

“I think we just got to go in with the mindset that we have to win every game,” Delgado said. “We just gotta play hard. It’s a really good team, we have to give them credit. I never played them, but I know they’re a really good basketball team. We have to go there and play hard.”

If Seton Hall does beat Arkansas, the team will have the chance to play No. 1-seed North Carolina in the second round of the Tournament. Looking forward to what can be a statement-making win, though, is looking too far in the future for the Pirates.

“You can’t just look past anybody,” Carrington said. “That’s when you get in trouble.”

Elizabeth Swinton 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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