The beginning of the most anticipated Seton Hall men’s basketball season since the 1990’s is almost here.
The Pirates began their quest for a Big East title and deep run in the NCAA Tournament with their first practice of the season this week. With four starters and a handful of key reserves returning, Seton Hall has the makings of a team that can make some serious noise in 2019-20. However, plenty of kinks need to be worked out and questions need to be answered before November rolls around.
With that being said, let’s take a look at four burning questions surrounding the Pirates entering the season.
1) Who’s No. 2? Myles Powell is Seton Hall’s undisputed star, but it’s going to take more than just him to survive a brutal non-conference schedule and much improved Big East. Far too many times last season the Pirates lost games they should’ve won because nobody besides Powell stepped up and contributed on offense.
That shouldn’t be an issue for Seton Hall this season. Myles Cale is generating plenty of hype on the wing, but it is Sandro Mamukelashvili who is primed to step into the role of Seton Hall’s second option on offense behind Powell.
Now back at his natural power forward position, the 6-foot-10 Mamukelashvili can play to his strengths instead of lingering in the post all game. Mamukelashvili thrived as a stretch four in Seton Hall’s stint in Italy this summer, giving coach Kevin Willard a potential look at things to come. As long as Mamukelashvili can consistently knock down perimeter jump shots and contribute in the post on both ends of the floor, Seton Hall has itself a consistent No. 2 option it can turn to without hesitation.
2) Ike or Ro? When Ike Obiagu transferred from Florida State, it was assumed he would slide into the starting lineup at center as soon as he became eligible without much competition. Romaro Gill is not letting Obiagu win the starting job without a fight, though.
Gill proved his worth last season, changing games with his post defense and shot blocking ability. He single-handedly delivered Seton Hall a win at Xavier in the beginning of Big East play and earned him a prominent role the rotation as a result. Considering how often Obiagu and Gill get into foul trouble, odds are the two will see nearly equal playing time with Obiagu getting the nod as the starter. Don’t be surprised to see Gill carve out a major chunk of minutes and maybe even a spot in the starting lineup depending on matchups.
3) How often will Willard turn to Anthony Nelson and Jared Rhoden? After slow starts to their collegiate careers, both Anthony Nelson and Jared Rhoden got rolling as the season went along.
Nelson was nothing but consistent by the middle of Big East play serving as Quincy McKnight’s backup. There were times that Seton Hall’s offense operated smoother with Nelson at the point than McKnight, a testament to the Harlem native’s progression. Rhoden, meanwhile, earned himself major minutes and both the three and the four whenever the Pirates decided to go with their small lineup.
Nelson and Rhoden will continue to serve as backups this season, but they will factor heavily into the rotation. Nelson has a real chance to overtake McKnight as the team’s starting point guard if McKnight struggles with turnovers again. Rhoden has bulked up considerably and is suited better now to play power forward than ever before, which will give him ample opportunities to see the floor.
4) Can this team live up to the hype? Seton Hall has not lived up to lofty expectations in the past. Willard has coached many teams with national rankings before, only to see them drop out a week or two later due to a bad game against a team that the Pirates had no business losing too.
This time around, the expectations are higher than ever. Seton Hall is a consensus Top 15 team with an All-American guard and a loaded non-conference schedule. This team handled adversity well a year ago, but the stakes are at an all-time high entering this season.
Predicting how the Pirates will handle the pressure of being one of the best teams in college basketball with a big boy schedule is an imperfect science. With that being said, this team has the makeup of one that is going to hold its own and not back down from anything. That gives Seton Hall a decent chance of not only living up to expectations, but surpassing them in 2019-20.
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.