Monday, December 12, 2016

Jaden Daly Previews the Pirates for the Seton Hall-South Carolina Game at MSG

Good morning, college hoops fans!  It's time for the annual Daly Dose of Hoops/College Hardwood preview swap as South Carolina takes on Seton Hall tonight at MSG.  While I preview South Carolina for Jaden Daly on his terrific Daly Dose of Hoops site,  Jaden previews Seton Hall for us on this site.  Enjoy!

Hi everyone, Jaden Daly from Daly Dose Of Hoops here, joining you once again to preview the Pirates of Seton Hall University as they take on South Carolina in the Under Armour Reunion event at Madison Square Garden.

My staff and I have covered Seton Hall extensively over the past few years, and have seen them in person three times already this season. Below you will find game recaps and postgame thoughts from each of those games: (Feature on Myles Powell)

Starting Guards
Seton Hall's strength is in its backcourt, and Khadeen Carrington leads the way following the transition of Isaiah Whitehead into the NBA. Still primarily used as a two guard, Carrington will move on to the ball and run the point during games, and still provide the same lethal scoring ability. Once predicted to be the all-time scoring leader before his career was over, Carrington leads the Pirates with a 20 point-per-game average, becoming the latest in a long line of scorers from Brooklyn. His shooting has picked up where it left off in the Big East tournament, shooting 55 percent both from the floor and three-point range. If the Hall needs a bucket, you can bet Carrington will be the first option for it.

Desi Rodriguez is more of a wing, but still a slasher at 6-foot-5 who can be a guard in a conventional lineup and a small forward in a smaller lineup. The most athletic of the Pirates, Rodriguez is the source of many highlight-reel dunks throughout the year, and will seek opportunities to drive the lane against South Carolina. With averages of nearly 15 points and seven rebounds per game, his numbers have improved enough to where the offensive production vacated by Whitehead and Derrick Gordon is no longer a question. His defense is still a work in progress, though, so if the Gamecocks can exploit him on the perimeter, it could change the game.

Madison Jones usually gets the start at the point guard spot. A graduate transfer who came to South Orange from Wake Forest, Jones made a strong first impression with ten assists in the season-opening win over Fairleigh Dickinson, and has since continued to be a deft passer who knows how to thread the needle in almost any situation. Like Rodriguez, his defensive ability needs work, which has explained a slight dropoff in minutes while he learns the nuances of the defense-oriented Pirate system. But when he is on the floor, he will always look to get his teammates involved before taking a shot of his own.

Starting Forwards
Any mention of the Seton Hall front line has to start with Angel Delgado. By far the best big man in the Big East, the junior has been unceremoniously snubbed of all-conference honors in each of his first two seasons, and is still making his opponents pay every time out. The 6-foot-10 Dominican is a walking double-double, averaging nearly 14 points and 11 rebounds per game, all the while shooting 59 percent from the field. Delgado is, in my opinion, a cross between former Pitt forward DeJuan Blair and a player some of you may already be familiar with from Gary's past chronicles, Stony Brook's Jameel Warney. An evolving part of Delgado's game has been his ability to elude double-teams and pass out of the post, freeing up players like Carrington and Rodriguez; and even Myles Powell, for long-range jumpers or threes on the baseline.

Next to Delgado is Ismael Sanogo, who is the most underrated big man in the New York area. A 6-foot-8 forward built like a linebacker, Sanogo has a nose for the ball unlike any other, and makes so many defensive plays that box scores simply will not do any justice. Without Sanogo, the Pirate interior is significantly weakened, as there is no one else to do the dirty work under the rim when Delgado gets into foul trouble. His stats may not seem like much, but look at what Sanogo affects on the defensive end before you read a stat sheet.

The Pirates normally play a seven-man rotation for the most part, meaning Myles Powell and Michael Nzei are the two you will see in the game most often. Powell is a precocious freshman whose three-point shooting conjures up memories of former Seton Hall legend Jeremy Hazell. Having lost 45 pounds in the offseason, Powell is most dangerous on the perimeter as evidenced by his 42 percent shooting from beyond the arc. He can also step in and take a mid-range shot in a smaller lineup. Nzei is a 6-foot-8 high-energy forward, a lot like ex-Fordham center Ryan Canty. A redshirt sophomore, Nzei is developing more with each passing game to become an integral piece of the puzzle for the reigning Big East champions.

Should one of the bigs get in foul trouble, Rashed Anthony will likely see a handful of minutes, as will Veer Singh. Singh is a stretch four who has become a fan favorite for his tendency to shoot NBA-range threes and connect on a fair share of them.

This is where Seton Hall has undergone its biggest evolution. The improvement in Kevin Willard's execution over the last two seasons has been unparalleled. Once rumored to be on the hot seat after the alleged rift between Whitehead and Sterling Gibbs, which ultimately saw Jaren Sina transfer to George Washington, Willard stepped back and assessed the situation, and applied a renewed sense of energy into offseason workouts and practices prior to last season. The result paid off with a conference title, and with four returning starters back this season, the expectations in South Orange remain high. In some ways, Willard's upward trajectory is quite similar to that of Frank Martin. Take a look:

2010-11: 13-17, 7-11 Big East
2011-12: 21-13, 8-10 Big East (second round of NIT)
2012-13: 15-18, 3-15 Big East (dropoff due to younger team, first true post-Bobby Gonzalez roster)
2013-14: 17-17, 6-12 Big East
2014-15: 16-15, 6-12 Big East
2015-16: 25-9, 12-6 Big East (conference champions, lost in NCAA round of 64)
2016-17: 7-2, picked in a fourth-place tie in Big East

Seton Hall was picked low presumably because those unaffiliated with the program really did not know what to expect as the Pirates adjusted to life without Isaiah Whitehead. Their 1-2 record in November's Advocare Invitational proved that much more remains to be accomplished, but wins over Hawaii and California in the Aloha State last week also serve as proof that the core of last year's championship squad remains very much alive.

The best part of this roster is that only one player, Madison Jones, is a senior. Assuming no one else takes their talents to the professional ranks, the Hall has a chance to potentially three-peat in the Big East, which would establish them as the first true dynasty in the league since it was restructured in 2013. Reaching the NCAA Tournament as sophomores, albeit overachieving, was a significant feather in the cap of the program in that the resurgence Willard spent a half-decade building toward came a year ahead of schedule, with the realistic opportunity to use last year as a foundation.

With in-state rival Rutgers coming up one week from Friday, the Pirates get yet another strong test to prepare them in the form of South Carolina. The loss of Sindarius Thornwell presents a huge opportunity for Seton Hall to take advantage, as does Angel Delgado against an undersized front line. The biggest key to victory, however, will be what happens at the free throw line. Foul shots have been Seton Hall's Achilles' heel all season, and if they leave points at the charity stripe, the door will be open all night for the Gamecocks to push through.

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