Heading into Thursday night’s showdown with No. 11-seeded Gonzaga, the No. 6-seeded Seton Hall Pirates are riding high.
Unfortunately, the altitude in Denver is even higher.
Colorado’s capital is exactly one mile above sea level, which means that Seton Hall will have to adjust to thinner air and more difficult breathing conditions.
“I think it just takes one or two practices to get used to,” head coach Kevin Willard said during a conference call on Tuesday. “Early in the practice today, our guys were feeling it a little bit. But by the end of the practice, they got very used to the altitude.”
Khadeen Carrington didn’t seem fazed on the call. The sharpshooting guard from Brooklyn refused to call playing in the “Mile-High City” a disadvantage.
“It’s been a little tough. Everybody is just fighting through it. There’s no time to let that hold us back now,” Carrington said. “I wouldn’t call it a disadvantage. I think we’re going to be used to it by time we play. We’re not trying to make any excuses.”
Willard went on to explain that one of the main reasons the team arrived on Monday night was to adjust to the new conditions.
“I’m glad we got out early. I think it does affect you. I think it’s more mental than physical once your body gets used to it,” Willard said. “These kids are so young, they’re in such great shape. I think really after a couple hours we started getting accustomed to it.”
Defensive stopper Ismael Sanogo—who will line up against Gonzaga’s top gun, crafty 6-foot-10-inch big man Kyle Wiltjer—agreed with Willard.
“This morning when I got up, sitting there and breathing the air, it felt a little bit thinner. It was hard for me to breathe,” Sanogo said. “But once I got to practice, we got up and down a little bit. It hit me at first, but then after a couple reps of going up and down it was just like a normal practice. It’s a more mental thing than it is a physical thing.”
Thomas Duffy can be reached at Thomas.firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TJDHoops.