After losing Khadeen Carrington, Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez and Ismael Sanogo, it is no surprise that expectations surrounding Seton Hall are not all that high.
The Pirates are young and rather inexperienced. Myles Powell returns as the only starter from last season’s NCAA Tournament team, and while Myles Cale and Sandro Mamukelashvili did see time off the bench, they will be starters for the first time in their collegiate careers this season. Both Quincy McKnight and Taurean Thompson are eligible for the first time at Seton Hall, while freshmen Anthony Nelson and Jared Rhoden will spend their first year trying to learn how to play in the Big East.
In other words, this is a team that still has to learn how to play together and its spot in the Big East preseason coaches’ poll reflects that. Picked to finish eighth in the conference behind the likes of a Georgetown team that finished .500 and a talented St. John’s team that has yet to put it together under head coach Chris Mullin, Seton Hall has plenty of work to do if it wants to jump from the lower tier of the conference to the middle of the pack or higher in the eyes of Big East coaches.
“It’s okay, that’s what the guys picked for us,” Powell said at Big East Media Day. “We know we work hard. We’re going to come out and do what coach wants us to do, win some games and we will move up.”
“We lost a good class of seniors, but we still have a couple of guys left,” Michael Nzei, the lone senior on the roster, said. “At this point, we’re going to take every game as they come and just try to make the best out of the opportunities that we have in front of us. Every game is an opportunity.”
Even when Seton Hall featured its core four of Carrington, Delgado, Rodriguez, and Sanogo, the program was no stranger to disrespect from coaches and the media. Low spots in preseason polls were commonplace and the Pirates had to fight harder than most to crack the AP Top 25.
“Any place where we was it, it doesn’t matter how you start, it’s how you finish,” Powell said. “Whatever we was placed, we were going to come in with a chip on our shoulders and a lot to prove with the four seniors being gone.”
Being picked to finish eighth in the conference is solid bulletin board material if Kevin Willard’s young team needed any extra motivation. It is a new era of Seton Hall basketball and this group is looking to leave its mark while trying to continue the winning tradition that the four seniors brought back to South Orange. New faces like Thompson are ready to go and prove that being picked to finish in the bottom half of the conference was an oversight.
“I don’t care about that,” Thompson said of the preseason ranking. “We’re going to be greater than that. For me, I’m trying to get a ring.”
In its season opener against Wagner, Seton Hall did not play like a bottom tier Big East team. The Pirates came out firing on all cylinders and dominated the Seahawks in every aspect of the game. If that game is any indication of what is to come, there is no doubt that Seton Hall will find its way into the upper echelon of the Big East this season.
“We beat a team by 40,” Powell said. “Everyone has something to prove.”
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.