Two hard-fought victories over Grand Canyon and Hawaii in the opening and semifinal round of the Wooden Legacy Tournament have provided Seton Hall with another shot at a signature win.
The Pirates squandered a chance to add a resume-building win against Nebraska in the Gavitt Games, but have been granted a reprieve with a talented Miami team awaiting on Sunday night. Before taking on Fresno State in the semifinals, Miami had been largely untested so far this season. Now, the Hurricanes will have to be on their A-game if they want to take down a Seton Hall team that has taken steps to find its identity in this tournament.
Seton Hall’s wins over Grand Canyon and Hawaii proved two different things. The first was the latest display of Myles Powell’s dominance, while the latter served as proof that this team can win without Powell scoring more than 30 points in a game. The Hawaii victory was an all-around team effort on both ends of the floor and the Pirates were running on fumes with the late start time, making the win all the more impressive.
The wins have not been impressive, but they are baby steps in the right direction for a team in desperate need of some structure before heading back East. There are going to be nights where Powell takes over and dominates the game as he did against Grand Canyon, but what happens when Powell is cooled off and not lighting it up from deep? The Hawaii win provided a glimpse of what Seton Hall is capable of when Powell isn’t shooting 75 percent from the field and getting to the free throw line at will. The Pirates featured multiple contributors and played unselfishly — a trend that needs to continue if they hope to knock off Miami.
Not only will Seton Hall need to sure things up on offense, but the Pirates will also have to bring the same defensive intensity as they did against Hawaii if they want to slow down a high-powered Miami attack. Through five games, the Hurricanes are averaging 84 points per game behind 5-foot-7 dynamo Chris Lykes.
As Miami’s leading scorer (19.6 points per game), Lykes is a dangerous scorer and facilitator at point guard. Slowing down the Hurricanes’ offense begins and ends with limiting Lykes and forcing him into uncomfortable situations where he is forced to either take a tough shot or squeeze a pass into a contested area.
This year’s Seton Hall team has yet to face a guard as dynamic as Lykes, but the Pirates proved they have the defensive chops to contain him with their performance against Hawaii. Taking home a tournament championship to begin the season would be a nice notch in a young Seton Hall squad’s belt, but doing so against an upper-echelon ACC team in Miami would be even sweeter.
One other tidbit: Seton Hall assistant coach Tony Skinn will be going up against a familiar face for the first time in his collegiate coaching career, as Miami head coach, Jim Larranaga, was Skinn’s coach at George Mason. Skinn was Larranaga’s starting point guard on the George Mason team that made a run to the Final Four in 2006.