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Around the Big East: Tough schedule looms for men's basketball

  [caption id="attachment_10924" align="alignnone" width="620"]Ken Cook/Photography Editor Ken Cook/Photography Editor[/caption] Remember basketball? You know, that round orange thing that players (ideally) throw through a basket? With collegiate fall sports in full bloom, the NFL making a grand return and the MLB regular season coming down to its final leg, let’s not forget about hoops. With numerous departures since last year and the arrival of a flurry of new players, a revamped Seton Hall men’s basketball team has a pretty action-packed schedule ahead of it. Sophomore star Isaiah Whitehead and company will open up against Dartmouth at the Prudential Center on Friday, Nov. 13. Two days later, SHU will also host Wagner before hitting the road to participate in the Gildan Charleston Classic against the likes of Long Beach State and Virginia. Last season, the Cavaliers were a top-seed in the NCAA Tournament. On Dec. 5, one week after the conclusion of the tournament in Charleston, Seton Hall will travel to Piscataway to battle Rutgers in the Garden State Hardwood Classic. In the inaugural game of the yearly-scheduled rivalry that will last until at least 2020, Seton Hall knocked around the Scarlet Knights, 81-54, at the Prudential Center. Following the battle against their in-state rivals, the Pirates will return to Newark for a four-game homestand. The highlight of both that and perhaps the Hall’s entire schedule will be when the Shockers of Wichita State stroll into town at noon on Saturday, Dec. 19. As the fires of last year’s hot streak still burned, SHU traveled to Kansas and gave the Shockers a game in front of an always-raucous crowd on Dec. 9. The home team eventually pulled out a 77-68 win, but not without a scare. Whitehead led the team with 23 points. This time around, the script is flipped. It’s Seton Hall’s turn to play host. Current seniors Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet have turned Wichita State into a national powerhouse in recent years. ESPN’s Dana O’Neil wrote in July, “they are partners in what arguably will be one of the best backcourts in college basketball.” O’Neil also wrote that the team will be on most top 10 lists to start the year. Last year, the seventh-seeded underdogs dethroned second-seeded Kansas in a game overflowing with poetic David-against-Goliath storylines on their way to the Sweet 16. Two years ago, the team was a three-pointer away from knocking off Kentucky and making it to the National Championship. Whitehead, Khadeen Carrington and transfer Derrick Gordon will have their hands full against WSU, but that type of contest gives Seton Hall the chance to make a booming national statement. A message of similar stature was delivered last January when the Pirates, on the shoulders of a particularly cold-blooded Sterling Gibbs, took down Villanova, the No. 6 team in the country. The Hall will grapple with the Wildcats and the eight other Big East teams following a home game against South Florida three days after the headliner against Wichita State. SHU will square off with St. John’s at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 21 at 12 p.m., which looks to be the highlight of the conference road schedule. Overall, this schedule is no cupcake. As showdowns with several national powerhouses loom, the Pirates are hopeful that they can make the most out of it. Thomas Duffy can be reached at or on Twitter @TJDhoops.


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