Anyone who purchased one of the Pirates’ basketball student section t-shirts should grab it and a permanent marker for an important edit: “Seton Hall Basketball – The Time Has Expired.”
It’s a bit of an empty feeling to craft this column on Sunday evening following the whirlwind of news about the men’s basketball program, from not earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament to the dismissal of junior forward Robert Mitchell.
Yet, I’ve made the choice to write now (before any NIT announcement) because the frustrations are high and rightfully so.
The promises were made for 2009-2010 and simply not cashed in – a true detriment to head coach Bobby Gonzalez in what is now a waste of year four of his tenure.
Guard Jamel Jackson, the wing threat that could allegedly compliment guard Jeremy Hazell, was an irrelevant one-game flash in the pan. Center Melvyn Oliver, the big body who could reportedly take on some of the Big East’s most intimidating forwards, went from back-of-the-bench to not even with the team at games.
And, perhaps most concerning, guard Keon Lawrence and his supposed athleticism and high-scoring ability became a 29 percent shooter from the field in a suspension-shortened season.
Still, with these disappointments, there was enough parity in the Big East and across the country to keep Seton Hall alive and “on the bubble” for the NCAA’s into the final weekend prior to the tournament.
But, with the chance for a significant March achievement on the line, the Pirates failed to get the job done – a recurring theme for the season since the winter.
It began in Newark at Prudential Center when Temple handed the Hall a loss that ended a season-long winning streak against mostly “cupcake” opponents. It subsequently handed the Pirates a dose of realism into this team’s possible shortcomings in closing out wins.
After nearly upsetting two of the Big East’s best in West Virginia and Syracuse, the theme resurfaced in Cancun when Seton Hall lost its last chance at a major out-of-conference win with a loss to Virginia Tech in overtime – amid reports on the ESPN broadcast of a blasé attitude by the team while in the vacation paradise of Mexico.
USF – an upstart team that Seton Hall arguably should have handled – was the next stop for the team to fail on the big stage, yet simply a prelude to a Senior Day bubble-damaging loss to Marquette.
The stars stayed aligned for the Pirates, though, as the nation’s power conferences (notably the Pac 10 and the SEC) floundered. The Big East Tournament’s second day offered a virtual play-in game for the team into March Madness.
It came down to 40 minutes according to analysts on ESPN and several New York media outlets – defeat Notre Dame and you’re in as an at-large bid.
With little surprise to this reporter, many fans wearing blue and white left Madison Square Garden with their heads hung low on that evening.
I’m sick of the waiting, the slogans for immediate success, and the comments that would make the average fan believe that Seton Hall is on the right path.
If you’re not part of the Big Dance and you’re in a major conference, you do not matter in March.
Tonight, the NIT selection show will air on ESPNU – not carried by the campus’ TV package nor many cable providers in the area.
Yet this won’t keep me glued to my computer as the teams in the secondary tournament get presumably announced on the web. I call it the “National Irrelevance Tournament” for reasons that South Carolina, Penn State, Rutgers and Michigan have proven to me by making runs to the Garden for the NIT’s final rounds in recent years – runs that have done very little in the long run for these programs.
Instead, I look forward to seeing what Gonzalez and the team have to say about their postseason and the forecast for 2010-2011.
There’s a good chance one of these quotes can take the place of “The Time Is Now” and be equally as misleading.
Brian Wisowaty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.