Coming off a season that saw Seton Hall win its first NCAA tournament game since 2004, the Pirates will have to make some wholesale changes next season. The Setonian’s Tyler Calvaruso, James Justice, Kevin Kopf and Kyle Beck take a look at the impact that those changes will have on the court in 2018-19.
What does the departure of the four seniors (Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, Ismael Sanogo and Angel Delgado) mean for Seton Hall heading into next season?
Everyone: Rarely does a class come along like the one that just graduated for Seton Hall men’s basketball. On the court, the Pirates lose 66 percent of their scoring and will have to find new leaders in the locker room. The transition from a veteran-laden team to one that is relatively inexperienced will be a tough one, but holdovers such as Myles Powell and Michael Nzei will be key factors in Seton Hall’s success. As the two most experienced players on the roster, it is on Powell and Nzei to keep Seton Hall afloat when the going gets tough.
Who will step up and be the X factor for Seton Hall next season?
TC/KB: Powell would be the easy answer, but it is sophomore Myles Cale that is primed to be the X factor for Seton Hall next season. Cale flashed star potential in his freshman campaign, routinely throwing down highlight-reel dunks and defending at an elite level at the other end. The next step for Cale will be to work on his jump shot and shot selection, but his raw athleticism alone has him primed for a breakout season in which the Delaware native could emerge as Seton Hall’s second leading scorer.
JJ: Quincy McKnight, a 6-foot-3 guard who sat out last season following a transfer from Sacred Heart, may have a considerable impact on the Pirates in 2018-19. He arrived at Sacred Heart as a two-star recruit, but showed promise as a freshman, averaging 11.4 points per game. As a sophomore, he upped the ante, totaling 18.9 points per game, in addition to 4.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists. McKnight will not be expected to contribute those types of numbers, but he has the potential to surprise many as a pivotal contributor.
KK: Sandro Mamukelashvili will be Seton Hall’s X factor next year. Despite appearing uncoordinated and lost defensively at times last season, Mamukelashvili showed signs of brilliance in spurts. At 6-foot-10, he provides height down low, but he can also hit shots from beyond the arc. Mamukelashvili’s diverse skillset can make him a dangerous asset for Willard and expect him to use his sophomore big man in a variety of ways. He will have to take the summer to round out his strength and overall skill, but if he can do that, he can become an integral part of Seton Hall’s efforts moving forward.
What kind of impact will Taurean Thompson have / how will he mesh with Seton Hall’s frontcourt?
Taurean Thompson doing work two hours before the game. The transfer from Syracuse was dripping sweat when we arrived a half hour ago and is just finishing up his training now. #shbb pic.twitter.com/OHoZR5CbpG
— James Justice (@JamesJusticeIII) January 20, 2018
Everyone: Thompson’s performance will be one of the deciding factors in Seton Hall’s season. His transfer from Syracuse was a lauded move for Kevin Willard, as Thompson was a top-100 recruit coming out of high school and someone who showed promise in the ACC as a freshman, averaging 9.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.0 block. Thompson is a cerebral player, who showed while at Syracuse he can operate without the ball. His inside-out game is elite and while Thompson still has some work to do on the defensive end, his offensive production should make up for his defensive miscomings. At Seton Hall, Thompson will be asked to be the go-to scorer in the frontcourt, alongside Sandro Mamukelashvili and Michael Nzei. With the opportunity to practice with the team this past year, Thompson shouldn’t be too far behind from a chemistry perspective, so improving on defense should be his focus as the season approaches.
Will Kevin Willard be able to adapt to his new personnel? This year’s team is more athletic and the offense will have a different look next season.
It’s unanimous: In the past, Kevin Willard has been reluctant to stray from his half-court offensive mindset, even with the electric personnel that has come through the program in recent years. Now, Willard is faced with arguably his most athletic team in eight years as Seton Hall’s head coach — a team that is going to want to get out and run in transition. With that being said, Willard will have no choice but to cater to this new style of play if he wants his offense to flow smoothly in 2018-2019.
Will Seton Hall make the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive season? Why or why not?
JJ/KK: The Big East has sent seven and six of its 10 schools to the NCAA Tournament over the last two seasons. That being said, in 2018-19, the conference may not even send five. Seton Hall is one of the swing schools that could be argued either way between the NCAA Tournament and NIT, and it is really tough to gauge because there are so many unknown quantities on Seton Hall’s roster. For that reason, we will say no. However, we look forward to being wrong in March.
TC/KB: Yes, a trip back to the NCAA Tournament for a fourth consecutive season is in the cards for this Seton Hall team. The Pirates’ non-conference schedule is rugged once again and presents Seton Hall with plenty of chances at a signature win or two. Likewise, with the Big East going through a transition phase where there is no clear favorite (other than Villanova), Seton Hall could finish top three in the conference if its young squad can weather the storm that is conference play.
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso. James Justice can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @JamesJusticeIII. Kevin Kopf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KMKTNF. Kyle Beck can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @notkylebeck .