Pirate Preview: Palpable buzz surrounding men’s basketball

Coming off a season that came to a disappointing end in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Pirates are primed to be the best teams in the Big East in 2019-20. The Setonian’s Tyler Calvaruso, Justin Sousa, Kevin Kopf and Kyle Beck take a look at what’s in store for Seton Hall next season.

1.) What does the return of Myles Powell mean for Seton Hall heading into next season?

Everyone: It is impossible to overstate the importance of Powell’s return for his senior year. If he had remained in the NBA draft, this season’s focus would’ve been on what Seton Hall could do to make up for Powell’s lost production on the court and leadership in the locker room. With last season’s leading scorer and Haggerty Award winner back in the fold, Seton Hall can write its own script come March and Powell could play himself into program immortality.

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2.)  As we saw many times last season, the Pirates lacked a second scorer and Powell was left to shoulder the offensive load himself. Which member of the starting lineup needs to step up and be a consistent No. 2 option in 2019-20?

TC/JS: Seton Hall needs another reliable scoring option on the wing and Myles Cale can be that guy. His jump shot improved a lot last season and all that’s left for him to do is to find consistency with it. If he can do that, Cale will be a true dual threat with his shooting and slashing ability. At that point, opposing defenses will have to key in on stopping him as well, which would open things up for Powell to operate freely both on and off the ball.

KB/KK: With Florida State transfer Ike Obiagu coming in to be Seton Hall’s center, Sandro Mamukelashvili slides back to his natural power forward position. Mamukelashvili has flashed potential with his shooting from deep and ability to get tough buckets inside. With two years of Big East experience and his role in the offense catering more to his strengths now, it’s Mamukelashvili’s time to step up on the offensive end.

3.) Will Seton Hall’s tough non-conference schedule help or hurt the Pirates when it’s all said and done?

JS/KB/KK: Coming off a rollercoaster end to Big East play and a disappointing burn out in the NCAA Tournament, a tough non-conference schedule could be what Seton Hall needs in terms of its mentality. There were a handful of games the Pirates should’ve won last season, but came up short. A good showing in the non-conference this season will establish confidence the team can take into the conference slate. The potential to add a couple of signature wins certainly doesn’t hurt, either.

TC: This schedule could do wonders for a Seton Hall team that needs an impressive resume to earn itself a high seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Pirates need to tread carefully, however. A schedule as grueling can wear a team out early, just ask the 2016 Michigan State Spartans, who stumbled out of the gate thanks to a tough non-conference slate and didn’t get back on track until the middle of conference play. Fortunately, Seton Hall is a veteran team and should be able to handle playing top competition on an almost nightly basis. The potential positives outweigh the potential negatives here.

4.) What kind of impact will Ike Obiagu have in his first season with the team?

Everyone: Obiagu’s back to the basket game on offense could use a little work, but Kevin Willard and Tony Skinn did not bring the Florida State transfer to South Orange to fill up the scoring column. Defensively, Obiagu brings a daunting physical presence that is going to frustrate opponents. Seton Hall has not had an athletic rim protector like Obiagu in a very long time and his shot blocking ability has the potential to change games. As long as he can stay out of foul trouble, Obiagu will be a key part of Seton Hall’s success next season.

5.) With the roster as it is, how deep of a run can Seton Hall make in the NCAA Tournament?

JS: With the core group from last year’s dismal first-round collapse returning, Obiagu entering the mix and a highly-touted freshman in Tyrese Samuel primed to make an impact, this team has a much higher ceiling than last year’s. Much of Seton Hall’s progress in the Tournament will ultimately rely on how well Powell does and how much better the supporting cast has gotten since last year. At the very best, Seton Hall has a fair shot at making it past the Sweet 16 with the right draws.

TC/KK: This is a team that has a true superstar, a solid, established supporting cast and two newcomers who will find a way to make an impact. With Powell leading the way, Seton Hall should make it out of the Round of 32 without much of an issue. If the Pirates can avoid an early round defeat, anything can happen once the Sweet 16 rolls around. Considering the makeup of the roster, this seems like a team with an Elite Eight ceiling. If Powell catches fire and puts the team on his back, though, who knows what kind of a run the Pirates can make.

KB: The limelight will shine on Powell, and deservedly so, but success in March only comes with a complete team. The other players will have to step up and make big plays in the clutch and the coaching staff has to execute as well. If the operation fires on all cylinders, there is no limit to where the Pirates can go. A genuine chance at the Final Four is on the table and chasing that hallowed ground will be the ultimate test of the progress this program has made throughout the past decade.

Author: Staff Writer

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