Seton Hall is as mentally tough a basketball team as there is in the nation. The Pirates will be ready to make noise in the Big East Tournament, this week at Madison Square Garden,
It became clear as the regular season progressed that if there’s any team in the Big East which should never be counted out, it’s Seton Hall. This team is tough, they’re double-tough. They’re Joe Pesci, in Casino, tough.
Let the doubters doubt, but the Pirates don’t let the critics get under their skin. Not enough star power? Myles Powell would beg to differ. What the Pirates lack in depth, they make up for with plenty of heart and grit. Powell is their X-factor.
Seton Hall was picked to finish eighth in the Big East preseason polls. But if head coach Kevin Willard knew this was going to be somewhat of a transition year, he didn’t schedule like it was one. The Pirates picked up quality non-conference wins over Kentucky and Maryland. They won three games in California to secure the Wooden Classic. The strategic move by Willard to schedule tough paid off and helped his team prepare for the conference schedule and get a clean start out of the starting blocks.
This team has Willard’s personality. He can be as tough as he can be charming when speaking to the media. But he’s also proven how good he is at the X’s and O’s of coaching.
There have been moments this season where it appeared it was time to count Seton Hall out. But then they find a way to pull you back from the ledge. This was especially the case with how they closed out the regular season.
A three-game losing streak, with only two games left on the schedule, threatened to put Seton Hall on the bubble for an at-large NCAA tournament bid. But the Pirates got off the mat, again, and started punching back. They knocked off Marquette with an 18-0 run to close out the game. A couple of days later they finished off the season with an upset of Villanova.
In the span of 72 hours, Seton Hall counterpunched their way back on the right side of the conversation for the NCAA tournament. A strong showing this week at the Garden could lead to an ideal seeding for the field of 68 on Selection Sunday. Not bad for a team picked to finish eighth this season.
The Pirates are have the third seed in this year’s conference tournament. This gives them a first round bye and a matchup in the quarterfinals with No. 6 seed Georgetown.
If Seton Hall can put the Hoyas away they’ll move on to the semifinals where possible matchup with second-seeded Marquette looms if the struggling Golden Eagles can get back on track.
If you tell Seton Hall they can’t win, they’ll just look at you, smirk, and then go put another W in the win column. It’s almost as if that’s what they want you to do, they want you to doubt them. They thrive off of it.
Nothing about this year’s Big East tournament will be easy to pick, it’s a wide open field. Villanova and Marquette, the two top teams in the conference, have both looked suspect this season. St. John’s played themselves out of the third seed which went to the Pirates. The timing could be right for Georgetown and Xavier to come in and pick off a few wins for their resume.
And then you have Seton Hall.
They’re gritty, well-coached, can take an opponent’s best punch, and have proven to themselves that when they’re on their game they can play with any team in the nation.
In a year where the field is wide open, the Pirates have what it takes to make plenty of noise at the Garden this week.