The Seton Hall men’s basketball team is now 16-10 after falling to Xavier on Wednesday night. Despite its recent string of success, three wins in its last four games, the team sits at 7-7 in conference play and is squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
There are just four games left in the regular season, and all of those games will be Big East action. As it stands, experts are not sure that Seton Hall is a lock for March Madness. Kevin Willard’s team cannot afford another blemish on its record.
A positive for the young group is that two of the Pirates’ remaining contests will be at the Prudential Center. Marquette and Villanova will all visit the Pirates, and the other games will be played on the road, although Madison Square Garden is usually a neutral site for Seton Hall.
Unfortunately, the state will be split as the Pirates face off against St. John’s after a two-point victory in December. The team’s only “true” road game will be in early March at Georgetown; another team that is has previously beaten in the year.
All signs point to a favorable-end to the team’s season. Yet still, experts are hesitant to send the Pirates to the Big Dance.
To be fair, this year’s team has had numerous down-to-the-wire and last-minute victories. There, in it, lies the problem. The Pirates have been incapable of overwhelming, or even marginally-exceeding, the effort put forth by their opponents. Fifteen of their games have been decided by six points or less. Two possessions were all that separated Seton Hall from winning or losing an overwhelming amount of its contests this season.
Taking a deeper dive into the stats, per-game averages were almost identical to that of Seton Hall’s opponents. The Pirates are +2.7 in the scoring margin, -0.6 in rebounding and +1.5 in turnovers. If that was not enough, shooting and assist numbers are just a few decimals away from their adversaries as well.
It becomes easy to see that Seton Hall seems to be a coin-flip away from making or breaking the rest of its season in this stretch. However, the numbers above are simply a reflection of the team. One could argue that star-power and individual-effort will always have the capability of tipping the scales.
Myles Powell has been far-and-away the Pirates’ top-scoring option all year long. His 21.9 points-per-game is more than double that of the team’s next best option. Powell has been hovering around 45 percent from the field, 36 percent from three and 87 percent at the line. He also leads the team in minutes played, averaging over 35 per game.
One might argue that his usage-rate is simply too high to maintain beyond the regular season. Others would be compelled to agree, except for the fact that Powell continues to impress in late-game situations. He single-handedly willed his team to victories against Kentucky and most-recently Creighton.
This season’s Pirates are far from perfect. The team itself would likely agree, considering how many finishes have been too close for comfort. Should that keep them from another appearance in the Tournament? Not as long as they continue to won.
Anthony Talarico can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ant_tal.