Following what was a rebuilding season for Tony Bozzella and the Seton Hall women’s basketball team in 2016-17, the Pirates are not afraid of challenges for the upcoming season. With the new schedule released Sept. 14, there are many opportunities for the team to improve on last year’s 12-19 record, provided it stays healthy.
The non-conference schedule will present its challenges, but those games will allow the Pirates to play up to expectations of a competitive season.
The Pirates will open non-conference play at Walsh Gymnasium against Saint Peter’s on Nov. 10. The game should be a warmup for the Pirates before they travel to Winston-Salem, N.C. to take on Wake Forest. Although the Demon Deacons finished 16-16 last season, they should be much improved this season, just like the Pirates.
After returning from their first road trip, the Pirates will be home for five consecutive games. The first test of their homestand comes against Princeton, who they lost to a year ago.
More than a week later, the Pirates will host another Jersey school, Rider, for their first game of the SHU Thanksgiving Classic on Nov. 25. Their second matchup in that holiday tournament will be either East Carolina or Jacksonville State. They will finish their homestand with games against Marist and St. Francis (N.Y.), before traveling to face in-state rival Rutgers, another team the Pirates fell to last season, along with Boston College.
The highlight of the Pirates’ non-conference schedule will be when UCLA travels to South Orange on Dec.17. The Bruins earned a No. 4 seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament, and finished ranked No. 13 in the USA Today poll, but sophomore forward Dasia Winters isn’t intimidated by the Bruins.
“I know it’s UCLA, it’s a big name school and all that, but we’re still going to come out and compete,” Winters said.
The Pirates will close out their non-conference slate when Fairfield comes to town on Dec. 21.
The most difficult stretch of the Pirates schedule will be during Big East play. With the Big East being a strong league from top to bottom, it makes each game a battle.
“As always, the Big East slate presents a tremendous but exciting challenge for our young ladies,” Bozzella said. “We are extremely fortunate to be featured in several nationally televised contests and are looking forward to the tests that playing 18 games in one of the nation’s best conferences will bring to our team.”
The Pirates open up with the league’s’ three best teams last season in DePaul, Marquette and Creighton, a challenge that excites Winters. “We are going to be hype for those games,” Winters said. “It’s the beginning of the Big East schedule and we are coming in with fresh legs, ready to compete.”
“We are going to be hype for those games,” Winters said. “It’s the beginning of the Big East schedule and we are coming in with fresh legs, ready to compete.”
DePaul lost several key seniors this season, but will likely remain a Big East power as they look to make its 19th straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Marquette will be formidable too, as the Golden Eagles return the conference’s leading scorer in Allazia Blockton.
Playing the two best teams on the road will give the Pirates a chance to show their improvement, but no matter the results, the Pirates will get a chance to defend their home floor and make a statement when Creighton comes to South Orange for their conference home opener.
The next three games come against Providence and Butler on the road on Jan. 7 and 10, before returning home to face Xavier on Jan. 13 in a three-game run that features all teams the Pirates beat last season.
Their next home stand comes against Villanova, Georgetown and St. John’s, three teams that finished in the middle of the conference standings last season. Assuming the Hall will find winning harder on the road, grabbing at least two of these home games will be crucial in taking a step forward.
To close the regular season, the Pirates will host Marquette and DePaul, the same two teams they opened up Big East play against. The home stand gives them a chance to put together two momentum-building results before the Big East Tournament.
This year has a whole different vibe, but its good, we know we are better than we were last year,” Winters said. “We’re going to go out there and be relentless the whole game and compete”.
Andrew Lombardo can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @lombardo_andrew.