Whether the Seton Hall men’s basketball teams bows out in its first-round showdown with NC State or makes a run to the national championship game, the 2018 NCAA Tournament will be the last time Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, Ismael Sanogo and Angel Delgado play together.
With their illustrious careers winding down, Seton Hall’s senior class still has one feat left to accomplish – to win a game in the NCAA Tournament. It would be a crowning achievement for a group that has had much success together over the past four years. However, pundits and fans alike may question the legacy of the senior class if they fail to notch a March Madness win.
Should the seniors be remembered as a talented group that underachieved in the postseason? Or should they be remembered for bringing a dormant program back to national relevance and giving Seton Hall fans something to cheer about once again?
Through the debates that take place about the legacy of Seton Hall’s senior class, one important topic of conversation does not shine through – how will the Seton Hall senior class remember its time playing for the Hall once everything is said and done?
“It would be a failure to the fans if [Seton Hall loses in the first round of the tournament], but it wouldn’t be a failure to us,” Rodriguez said of the legacy of the senior class. “I think we did a great job. Seton Hall didn’t make the tournament in I don’t know how long, we didn’t win a Big East championship in a long time. I think we changed the program around. We got some good players to come in here because of us. I think we turned this program around.”
Before the senior class arrived on campus in 2014, Seton Hall had won a combined 66 games in the four seasons leading up to that. Since then, the Pirates have combined for 82 wins – 38 in conference play and a Big East Tournament championship in 2016. Not many groups have accomplished as much as Seton Hall’s senior class has in its four years.
“We made it a winning program,” Rodriguez said. “I know we’ll leave a legacy here.”
The biggest knock on Seton Hall’s senior class has been its lack of ability to get the job done in the NCAA Tournament. With a 0-2 mark in the tournament, the criticism has been that a team with lofty expectations and immense talent has not sealed the deal on college basketball’s biggest stage. However, that narrative could change if the Pirates find a way to not only defeat NC State, but also put together a run that would most likely include having to knock off No. 1 seed Kansas.
“We’ve got to win this one,” Delgado said. “We’ve got to get this off our chest. This is our last try, our last chance to leave a legacy.”
From an outsider’s perspective, the pressure is on this group to get a March Madness win. For Seton Hall’s senior class, though, this year’s trip to the tournament is no unique challenge for a group that has seemingly been through it all.
“No pressure at all, it’s business as usual,” Sanogo said. “Definitely a good feeling. It could be our last college game; we just have to live in the moment.”
“I always take it upon myself to play my best and give my team everything I got,” Carrington said. “There’s going to be no difference this year.”
While past tournament failures are nothing to write home about, they play a key role in ensuring that Seton Hall advances past the Round of 64 this time around. With each year playing in the tournament, the Pirates have had chances to learn what not to do and the types of game-costing mistakes they must avoid.
“I think our sophomore year it was kind of tough,” Carrington said. “We were kind of drained from the Big East Tournament and then we get a tough draw with Gonzaga and having to go to Denver. Last year, we just couldn’t get over the hump because of little mistakes at the end. We should be prepared for this year; we’re laser focused right now.”
Seton Hall’s senior class has provided fans with a rollercoaster of emotions since it arrived on campus. From the highs of winning a Big East title to the lows of devastating losses in the Big East and NCAA Tournament, it is important to give the quartet a fair shake when evaluating their legacy, as before they arrived, Seton Hall was a program that seemed destined to be a bottom-dweller in the Big East for years to come.
The most important takeaway from this season and era will be the one that the four seniors walk away with once their time in South Orange is up. When this team has its 20-year Big East Championship anniversary, how will the seniors reflect on their time representing Seton Hall and what they accomplished in their four years at the University?
Defeating NC State to secure at least one NCAA Tournament victory would be a nice way for the class to cement its legacy in program lore. But no matter what happens, Carrington, Rodriguez, Sanogo and Delgado will all look back at their time playing for coach Kevin Willard with bright smiles on their faces, knowing they did their part in resurrecting a down-and-out program.
“Win or lose, I love my guys,” Rodriguez said. “I’d do it all over again.”
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.