It took only three games for this year’s Seton Hall team to establish what it’s made of.
The Pirates didn’t have much time to recover from their gut-wrenching loss to No. 3 Michigan State on Nov. 14. Not only was the loss itself excruciating, but the Gavitt Games matchup was also physically and mentally draining to the point where Seton Hall could use a day or two to recover. However, there was no rest for the weary in this situation. With a trip to Saint Louis only three days later on top, the Pirates would have no time to lick their wounds.
“We have a big game coming up on the road on Sunday against a very good Saint Louis team,” Myles Powell said immediately after the Michigan State loss. “We have no time to chill. We have to get back, watch film, get better as a team and start looking forward.”
How did the 2019-20 Pirates move forward? By running Saint Louis out of the building in the blink of an eye.
Even with Powell struggling to find his way in the opening minutes, Seton Hall took it to the Billikens with a 17-3 run to begin the game. The most encouraging aspect of the run? Powell did not contribute a single point.
Past Seton Hall teams would have folded under the circumstances this year’s team faced heading to Saint Louis. In 2018, the Pirates laid an egg on the road at Marquette after a back-and-forth game against Butler that required every bit of energy they had in order to leave Hinkle Fieldhouse with a win. In 2017, Seton Hall scored a big overtime win with NCAA Tournament implications over Providence only to go to Madison Square Garden and get beat soundly by St. John’s three days later.
Not this team.
The Saint Louis game was more than a demonstration of Seton Hall’s resilience. It was a prime example of the team’s balance and ability to get the job done in all aspects of the game. Sandro Mamukelashvili and Quincy McKnight stepped offensively to stuff the stat sheet. Myles Cale and Jared Rhoden contributed their usual lockdown defense and stymied a Saint Louis offense that entered the afternoon averaging 84 points per game. The foul-happy duo of Ike Obiagu and Romaro Gill need to smarten up in the paint, but even that doesn’t detract from the main takeaway from the 17-point win.
This team is more than one player. If Powell isn’t scoring, guess what? Someone else is going to step up and help the Pirates get going on offense. If Cale is having an off night, Rhoden is there to pick up the slack. If Obiagu or Gill get into early foul trouble, rebounding and defending in the post becomes a complete team effort.
Many of Kevin Willard’s Seton Hall teams have struggled to find its identity. In some cases, it took until late in the season for the Pirates to break out of their shell and figure out who they are. That’s not the case this season. Seton Hall is not only tough as nails, but boasts the kind of depth that can propel a good team into the ranks of the elite.
“I told them ‘Guys, we can’t go to Saint Louis and lay an egg and have everyone think they just played well because they were at home.’,” Willard said. “I wanted everyone to know that we are a legit top 10 team. I believe that. I think we’re that good.”
Elite teams accomplish what the Pirates did over the weekend. Programs like Florida, UCLA, Villanova and even Kentucky have fallen victim to a lack of cohesiveness and identity so far this season. For Seton Hall, that has not been the case.
The Pirates know exactly who they are and what they’re capable of accomplishing.
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.