Kevin Willard has never been a fan of the way the Big East puts together its conference schedule.
From the day he took over, Willard has always had something to say about Seton Hall’s conference slate. From rugged weeks against stacked opponents to the ridiculous 9 p.m. time slot that the Pirates often found themselves relegated to, Willard has never been shy about voicing his displeasure about the schedule.
Most of the time, Willard’s complaints are unwarranted and simply vented out of frustration. Sometimes, coaches look for things to blame and Willard has turned to the schedule as a scapegoat on numerous occasions. This season, he might have a legitimate gripe, though.
In the early stages of Big East play, Seton Hall played six games, including four on the road, in an 18-day span. While the Pirates already had six conference games out of the way, programs like Villanova and Providence had only played four.
“It’s absurd. I have no idea why they’re trying to fit all these games in, and then we’re going to have three weeks with byes,” Willard told Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press in January. “It’s been a competitive disadvantage. We were playing Providence (Tuesday) and it’s their fourth game, and we’re playing our fourth road game.”
It’s easy to see why Willard feels that his team is at a disadvantage. While Seton Hall was gearing up for its fourth conference road game, Providence was preparing for its fourth game overall. While other programs were granted an appropriate amount of rest in between games, the Pirates were left out in the cold. Willard’s frustration only grows when he looks around and sees how other conferences have perfectly balanced schedules, as his own conference puts teams at a disadvantage.
“I’m looking at the other conferences and everyone is playing the same amount of games,” Willard said. “Why is everyone else even and we’re not? There’s just no reason to have that.”
In an effort to even things out, the Big East attempted to offset Seton Hall’s heavy early-season slate with a handful of bye weeks in January and February. On the surface, this seems like as good idea, as it would afford the Pirates extra rest. However, Willard has not been a fan of the bye week either. With Seton Hall fluctuating in and out of action, the Pirates have been able to maintain a rhythm.
“We’ve got another bye week coming up. This conference and the schedule is the stupidest thing in the world,” Willard told his team following a loss to Butler on Feb. 2.
Let’s be clear about one thing – Seton Hall is not struggling because of its schedule. From slow starts to ridiculous amounts of turnovers, there is a laundry list of issues that this team needs to iron out if it wants to make the NCAA Tournament. Solely blaming the schedule for recent struggles would be asinine.
With that being said, it’s obvious that scheduling is a practice that the Big East has yet to master. Whether it’s Seton Hall or another program in the conference, no team should have to deal with the schedule imbalance that the Pirates have been faced with throughout the 2018-19 season.
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.