A stretch like the one Seton Hall endured over the last two weeks showed signs of a broken team, but it is nowhere Seton Hall’s senior class has not been before.
Ever since the core four of Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, Ismael Sanogo and Angel Delgado set foot on campus, adversity has become a common theme. As freshmen, they were part of a team that went from top-25 to turmoil. As sophomores, embarrassing early season losses to Long Beach State and George Washington threatened to doom a season that looked promising with the amount of talent returning.
After a hot start to their junior year, it looked like Kevin Willard’s prized 2014 recruiting class was finally going to have a season without a major bump in the road. Instead, conference play turned out to be the problem this time around, as the Pirates endured a stretch where they dropped five of six in January. For a while, it looked like the team was NIT-bound until the group managed to spearhead key wins against big teams.
This season, it is more of the same for a Seton Hall team that has seemingly been through it all. After climbing as high as No. 13 in the rankings, the Pirates have crashed back to earth since the calendar turned to 2018. Since January, Seton Hall has gone 5-7 and from a potential four or five seed in the NCAA Tournament to a team that may end up in the seven to nine range barring a late season surge filled with signature wins.
“We’re not falling apart,” Willard said. “That seems to be thought right now, but I go through college basketball and I see a lot of teams who have lost three of four. It’s called league play. We’ve been on the road and nobody is perfect on the road. You have to battle.”
The Feb. 18 victory over DePaul was a step in the right direction for a Seton Hall team that was on a four-game losing streak entering the day, but there is still work to be done. Beginning on Feb. 21, the Pirates will kick off a crucial four-game stretch in which they can either improve their standing heading into the Big East Tournament or play themselves onto the NCAA Tournament bubble.
“We know how important this win was,” Rodriguez said of Sunday’s victory. “Off the court, I think it’s been great. Even when we were losing, our relationship got closer and I feel like that’s what it was today. Nobody was negative, nobody was putting the blame on anyone else and that’s what’s good about this team. Most of us know what it takes to win a Big East Championship and we just look forward to getting better each day.”
It will not be a cakewalk, as the four-game stretch features a trip to take on a Providence team that just knocked off No. 3 Villanova, a St. John’s team that has pieced together four straight wins, Villanova and Butler, who always finds a way to take Seton Hall to the brink.
Despite the challenges that lie ahead, Seton Hall’s veterans know the drill, especially in what is their final year playing for the Hall.
“We’re not trying to throw away a good season,” Rodriguez said. “Losing four in a row, it really does hurt. Bouncing back shows a lot of leadership and what we want to do moving forward.”
“Coach always tells us that we’ve been through this,” Delgado said. “We’ve been through this since our freshman year; we’ve been dealing with this since freshman year, so it’s nothing new. We cannot put our heads down. We always take some punches, but we always get up and fight. That’s what we’re doing right now.”
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.