The word of the summer for Seton Hall basketball was transition.
The team qualified for its third straight NCAA Tournament last season, led by the likes of Khadeen Carrington, Angel Delgado and Desi Rodriguez. Since then, however, those three, Ismael Sanogo and several other pieces have either graduated or transferred elsewhere.
Rightfully, the team has seen scrutiny over the past few seasons. Despite finding success in 2017-18, the Pirates lost to Butler, 75-74, in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals and could not make it past Kansas in the second round of the NCAAs.
The failures on this level over the past two seasons do not undermine the amount of success and the immense legacy that the four seniors leave behind. However, it is time for the program to turn over a new leaf and begin to look at new ways to operate.
The injection of young talent, such as Darnell Brodie, Anthony Nelson, Jared Rhoden and Taurean Thompson into the lineup, as well as the addition of Romaro Gill and Quincy McKnight, make the 2018-19 roster intriguing. This coupled on top of the returning Myles Cale, Sandro Mamukelashvili, Michael Nzei and Myles Powell make the Pirates much more dangerous than bargained for.
In the Big East preseason coaches’ poll, Seton Hall was picked eighth, just one point ahead of Creighton and seven points back of next-best Georgetown. Although the conference is highly competitive, the ranking bestowed upon the Pirates may not end up being entirely accurate.
There is no doubt that the Big East, which sent six teams to the 2018 NCAA Tournament, including two top seeds, is a dominant conference. Two of the top four teams in the ranking this year, Marquette and Saint John’s, did not even make it to the tournament last season.
Even with the high caliber of talent within the Big East, Seton Hall has the ability to make waves this season without its 2018 class.
Powell is set to become one of the best players in college basketball. He averaged 15.5 points-per-game last season en route to being named the Big East Most Improved Player of the Year. Head coach Kevin Willard sang Powell’s praises multiple times before the season started and expects him to be the impact player that can transform the view of the Pirates. Willard went as far as to predict that Powell would be “one of the best scorers and players in college basketball” for this season.
Willard has a variety of assets alongside Powell to make the new season a successful one. Without the regular rotation, Willard will be able to mix things up in terms of style and playing time which will ultimately be good for the program. With the seniors from last season, it was easy to get into a rhythm and play the same type of basketball each game. Now, the team can play at a higher tempo and use its speed and athleticism to become a winner.
The growing pains will certainly be evident, but it is a long season and in the Big East Tournament, anything can happen. Willard and his new-look coaching staff find themselves in a unique situation with a new roster and low expectations – a rare case for this program.
It is now up to the players to perform. If everything goes smoothly and everyone performs to the level that they are able to, a fourth consecutive trip to the big dance may not be out of the question. An NIT birth seems more likely as of now, but in the world of sports, there are no guarantees.
Kevin Kopf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twiter @KMKTNF.