UConn head coach Geno Auriemma and two of his star players, Preseason Freshman of the Year Paige Bueckers and Preseason Player of the Year Christyn Williams, stole the show in the Huskies’ first Big East media day back in the conference. Tony Bozzella and the Seton Hall Pirates flew under the radar, but that does not mean there was not a ton to take away in anticipation of the upcoming season.
While most of the questions asked throughout the day related to COVID-19 and how the various Big East programs were dealing with the obstacles the virus brought about, the coaches, including Bozzella, still spoke about their preparations and expectations for the upcoming season.
Here are three things The Setonian took from Thursday’s virtual media day:
Desiree Elmore is set to make a huge impact
Entering her senior year off a season receiving All-Met team honors and averaging 13 points, 2.4 assists, and 7.2 rebounds per game, Elmore made her second consecutive Preseason All-Big East team and is primed to lead the Pirates this season.
Last season, Seton Hall finished fourth in the conference and reached the Big East Tournament semifinal where they lost to the eventual champion, DePaul. Shadeen Samuels was a massive piece in the team’s success last year, especially defensively as Bozzella noted, but the Pirates have turned to Elmore to step up her game and become a leader for the team.
“She’s a really nice person, and a really good kid who I think is really comfortable right now where she is, and I think that’s really helped her become a better player,” Bozzella said.
She has such a deep knowledge of the game that Bozzella said she might even have a future in coaching when her playing career ends.
“I think she’s so intelligent,” He said. “She sees the next play ahead.”
Her exceptional intuition and ability are an incredible turn from where she was when Bozzella was recruiting her in high school.
“Watching her in high school, I thought, ‘she wasn’t in great shape, she took a lot of plays off, her talent got her to where she was,’” Bozzella said. “She was really struggling in her first two collegiate seasons at Syracuse, both on the court and off, but she has stood out in her three seasons in South Orange.”
If Elmore can continue her progression as a player into her senior year, she can not only be a leader for the Pirates, but she can be a standout in the conference.
Where does the defense go without Shadeen Samuels?
Samuels was an offensive force for Seton Hall last season, but she also anchored the team’s defensive presence last season.
Losing her will be a tough adjustment for the coaching staff, and Bozzella did not shy away from that prospect at all when asked about it.
“Honestly, we have no idea how we’re going to replace [Samuels] right now,” He said. “It’s probably our biggest question mark, our biggest issue.”
Two seniors led the team in steals last season, as Samuels had 1.7 steals per game and Alexis Lewis finished with 1.8. Elmore is the only returner to have over 100 defensive rebounds last season.
Bozzella was brutally honest.
“Not one person is going to replace Shadeen,” He said. “We’ve got to be better as a team defense, and we’re trying and we’re working on it every day, but this is something that we have to work on, we have to get better at.”
Obstacles of COVID-19
Besides UConn returning to the conference after six years in the American Athletic Conference, how the Big East is set to deal with COVID-19 was the hot topic of the day.
The conference has already had their share of struggles, as both the men’s and women’s basketball programs at Marquette are enduring a two-week shutdown due to two positive COVID-19 tests within both programs.
“There’s no way we are going to be able to play with this 14-day quarantine,” Bozzella said. “It’s just not going to happen. Someone is going to get sick at some point.”
He elaborated by saying that a two-week quarantine would end up being closer to 20 days as the players will need an extra four to six days of physical preparation before getting back into Big East competition. Bozzella also expressed his concern over the potential of multiple players being sat out as a result of contact-tracing, saying there should be a way for players to “test out” of quarantines early in a similar way that college football programs are looking to run their COVID-19 procedures.
There is a lot going against the Pirates in the coming season but there is a lot to look forward to, as well. The team is young, but with lots of upsides, so do not be surprised if they overcome their projected sixth-place Big East finish this season.
Brendan Balsamo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @brenbal.