It’s rare that a school with a student population of 1,692 turns into a basketball power, but that is exactly what Wofford managed to accomplish in 2019.
Winners of 20 straight games and the No. 20 team in the AP Top 25, Wofford has emerged as one of college basketball’s best teams. Behind the play of Fletcher McGee and an assortment of sharpshooting guards and wings, the Terriers secured the No. 7 seed in the Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament and have a legitimate chance to make a run if all of the stars align.
In order for any of that to happen, they will first have to get by Big East Tournament runner-up and No. 10 seed Seton Hall on Thursday night.
Wofford ran the table playing in the SoCon, but it never went up against a team as athletic as Seton Hall or one that features a star like Myles Powell. Likewise, the Pirates have scarcely played against a player like McGee and the style of offense that Wofford likes to run.
When talking about what kinds of problems Wofford brings, the conversation begins and ends with McGee. An elite shooter with a propensity for scoring, McGee leads Wofford’s offensive attack with 20.5 points per game on 44 percent shooting from the field and 42 percent from three. He also shoots 90.7 percent from the free throw line, which ranks sixth in the country, and is two three-pointers shy of breaking the NCAA record of 504 makes from beyond the arc.
“I thought I had the best shooter in the country and I think Fletcher McGee might be right up there with him,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard, said on a teleconference after the seeds for the tournament were announced. “Talented player, quick release, really impressed with how well he works without the basketball to get his shot off.”
Wofford’s offensive attack doesn’t stop there, as point guard Storm Murphy can hurt you in a multitude of ways and forward Cameron Jackson is a lot to handle down low. The Terriers are averaging 83 points per game, which is good for 14th in the country, and make 11 three-pointers per game while shooting at a 42-percent clip from beyond the arc. According to Kenpom.com, Wofford’s offense ranks 12th in the country.
While dominating in conference play, Wofford did not play in many close games – something that could work in Seton Hall’s favor. The Terriers scheduled well in the non-conference, playing a handful of blue-blood programs such as North Carolina and Kansas, but faced a much easier slate once SoCon play kicked off. Wofford’s last real test came in an overtime victory against East Tennessee State in early February, while Seton Hall had nine games come down to the wire over that same span.
Both teams bring a unique style of play, making the matchup all the more intriguing. As long as the Pirates can prevent McGee from getting open looks and Myles Powell performs as he did in the Big East Tournament, where he scored 78 points in three games, they will be in good shape. With that being said, this will not be an easy matchup for Seton Hall, even though its athleticism gives it the upper-hand. The Pirates have earned the reputation for being a fearless group and although it may not seem like it, Wofford is a veteran team that possesses some of the same traits. If the Terriers get hot from deep, it will be tough to stop them. However, Seton Hall has the defensive stoppers in Myles Cale and Quincy McKnight, both of whom will be tasked with guarding McGee, to force Wofford into tough shots and uncomfortable situations with their length and on-ball pressure.
This is a Seton Hall team that was not expected to make it this far. Many predicted that the Pirates would be playing in the NIT this year, not preparing for their fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Merely making the tournament would not be enough for this team, though. Seton Hall is not in the tournament simply to take part, they are in it to win it. All season long, the Pirates have displayed a never-say-die attitude, even when the odds were stacked against them. The story is no different in the NCAA Tournament, as all of the metrics favor Wofford.
Does Seton Hall have enough left in the tank following a deep Big East Tournament run to make the doubters eat crow yet again? We’ll find out Thursday night.
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.