Pirates on the bubble as NCAA Tournament looms

There are three certainties about the month of March, and the first two involve the color green – the return of verdant leaves as spring begins and the proliferation of green-clad revelers celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. The third certainty is the madness caused by the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Currently, Seton Hall fans are in a frenzy over whether the Pirates will be invited to the “Big Dance” or on the outside looking in. In a month of certainties, Seton Hall’s tournament status is anything but that.

Currently, the Pirates stand at 17-12, including 8-9 in Big East play, after a heartbreaking double-overtime loss to Georgetown March 2. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s last projected bracket had Seton Hall in the tournament and playing Clemson in the “first four” play-in game as a 12-seed.

What looked like a surprising and promising season for the Pirates quickly turned sour after a string of losses in February. Facing the Pirates now is a win-and-you’re-in situation over the next three or four games in home clashes with Marquette and Villanova and one to three Big East Tournament games at Madison Square Garden.

Kiera Alexander/Staff Photographer

Prior to the Georgetown loss, Seton Hall was 7-8 in the Big East with four quadrant-one wins, good enough for a net ranking of 64. Seton Hall is also 43rd in the country in strength of schedule due to adventurous non-conference scheduling that saw the Pirates take on the likes of Louisville, Maryland, and Kentucky. Wins against Kentucky and Maryland, both nationally ranked teams, and conference wins against St John’s and Georgetown, certainly beefs up the Pirates’ resume.

However, most of the positives happened while the calendar was still 2018.

Good news for Pirates fans comes from the fellow bubble teams – Clemson, Florida, and Ohio State. Clemson and Florida have nearly identical resumes as Seton Hall, as both are 17-12 on the season. Clemson’s big win is a triumph over Virginia Tech, who just beat Duke last week, and Florida has a win over nationally ranked LSU.

Seton Hall finds separation from the Tigers and Gators is that it has more quadrant-one wins. Despite this, though, the selection committee could look at the strength of the ACC and SEC and see Clemson’s conference losses to Virginia and Duke as “quality losses” compared to Seton Hall’s losses to Xavier and DePaul. Clemson and Florida’s strength of schedule is also higher ranked than Seton Hall’s.

Ohio State has four quadrant-one wins on its resume but got throttled 86-51 in its last game against Purdue. The Buckeyes also have had an easier non-conference schedule than Seton Hall.

Ultimately, the real test comes in the next two weeks as Seton Hall, Clemson, Florida, Ohio State, and others get to prove their worth to the selection committee. At this moment, Seton Hall appears to have done enough to at least be among the last four teams in the tournament, but that does not change the “do or die” mentality that the team must have moving forward.

Matthew Collins can be reached at matthew.collins@student.shu.edu or on Twitter @Matt98533108.

Author: Staff Writer

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