Kevin Willard’s biggest challenge this season was replacing the production left behind by his four-star seniors, and it still remains a work in progress eight games in.
The men’s basketball team has gotten off to a 5-3 start this season and begins conference play on Dec. 29. There were certainly expectations for a few players, such as Myles Powell and Michael Nzei, to rise up and perform this season, but the Pirates have seen a welcome effort from some of their less experienced players as well.
Seton Hall’s three losses came by way of Saint Louis, Louisville and Nebraska. The two games against Saint Louis and Louisville were home losses at the Prudential Center, while Nebraska was on the road.
In these three games, the team’s shooting percentages were down almost entirely across the board.
Against Nebraska, the Pirates shot 36 percent from the field, 13 percent from three and 65 percent from the line and would go on to lose 80-57. In the Saint Louis game, they shot 33 percent from the field, 24 percent from three and 71 percent from the line. This game was decided by just one score, 66-64. Finally, they shot 40 percent from the field, 17 percent from three and 80 percent from the line against Louisville. This would be another close finish with the Pirates losing 70-65.
It is no secret that shooting woes are what kept Seton Hall from seeing those games fall in the win column. Along with shooting a subpar 45 percent from the field, the Pirates are averaging a mere 28 percent from three and 69 percent from the free throw line. In comparison, their opponents are averaging 34 percent from three and 74 percent from the line.
In the team’s five wins, it is shooting significantly better from all areas. Since the Pirates are not overwhelming their opponents on the defensive end, consistent shooting will play a major factor in the outcome of future matchups.
Despite the team’s rocky start, Powell has been on fire as per usual. After the team’s win over New Hampshire on Dec. 4, Powell is ranked 22nd in the country with 22.4 points per game.
While Powell’s performance is enough to keep eyes on the Pirates, a few members of the supporting cast have surprised with their play thus far, too.
Quincy McKnight, in particular, has proved his value on the court. He is averaging 8.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. He has also demonstrated tremendous grit on defense, as he is averaging a team second-best 1.5 steals per game.
The Pirates are ultimately still a work in progress. They have many details that still need ironing out, but it appears that Willard is beginning to figure out how to balance his cast of young athletes.
Anthony Talarico can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ant_tal.