Posts Tagged ‘Seton Hall’

With the liquidation of the Big East in 2013 with charter members Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and other universities bolting for greener pastures in another conference many presumed the Big East brand was mortally wounded. Many national pundits were more than willing to provide the eulogy for the once great conference has boasted about how a conference that had superstars such as Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin was not the powerhouse it once was. Yet the results of the 2016 NCAA tournament beg to differ.

First the Big East conference was able to have five teams make the NCAA tournament which is half of the conference. The five tournament participants are two more bids than what the SEC received which happens to have a total of fourteen teams. The Big East was also successful as a whole in the first round as the conference went 4-1 in the first round with only Seton Hall being ousted. Yet in the second round only Villanova was able to advance to the Sweet 16.

Villanova which conquered previous critiques as in the last two seasons Nova was unable to advance past the first weekend. The Wildcats were able to break through their own personal roadblocks and became the sole team carrying the banner of the Big East. And Villanova represented the Big East tremendously by dominating Miami 92-69 in the Sweet 16 and conquering basketball blue blood Kansas 64-59. Many of those that were proclaiming the passing of the Big East need to realize that a Big East team is two wins away from a national title.

Syracuse’s success also has validated the Big East in two different ways. First Syracuse head Basketball coach Jim Boeheim was asked to compare the strength of the ACC to the Big East. Boeheim did not answer which could be inferred to mean that one of the founding fathers of the Big East will not degrade the past just to gain some publicity for his new conference.

Second is a December game between Syracuse and St. Johns at Madison Square Garden. In that contest the Red Storm obtained a convincing 84-72 win over their arch rival. And for first year coach Chris Mullin that victory was their one shining moment and it just gets brighter with every Syracuse win in this tournament.

As the clock expired at Alumni Hall in Jamaica Queens the scoreboard showed a sight that has not been seen in over two months with the Red Storm picking up an 80-65 victory over DePaul. The home crowd and home team could finally celebrate that elusive win that they have come close to achieving several times before but could not grasp in conference play. Now today is a new day and all focus and effort should be directed to the next opponent for the Johnnies, their Big East rival Seton Hall.

Seton Hall is currently a bubble team that has not yet solidified their at-large berth in the 2016 NCAA tournament. The Pirates currently rank 42 in the RPI and do hold a marquee win at Providence but the key conference win has been losing it’s luster by the way the Friars have been playing lately. With their current status the Pirates have no margin for error and a bad loss could disintegrate the Hall’s tournament chances.

Of course there is more to this match-up than possible NCAA tournament positioning when the two teams collide at the Mecca of basketball this Sunday afternoon. The best player for Seton Hall, Isaiah Whitehead, is no stranger for the loyal fans of the Red Storm. Whitehead went to Lincoln High School in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn and chose to go to the Hall instead of committing to then St. John’s coach Steve Lavin in the fall of 2013. Kevin Willard did receive a “tiny” assist from Whitehead’s coach who delivered Whitehead in exchange for a spot on the Pirates coaching staff.

Seton Hall was the dark horse entering the 2015-16 season after limping to the end of the 2015 season and having Jaren Sina announce he was transferring in February of 2015 only to be joined in the exodus from Orange, NJ by Sterling Gibbs who is a graduate transfer at UCONN this season. Whitehead has led a solid group of sophomores that includes Angel Delgado and Khadeen Carrington and the rest of the Pirates to this point. Whitehead has switched to point guard and has altered his game from a high-volume shooter to a more balanced offensive player that is able to facilitate scoring for his teammates.

Now outside a miraculous run that would surpass the 1983 NC State team coached by Jim Valvano after the Big East tournament Chris Mullin and his squad will be finished for the 2016 season. The role St. John’s can play best for the duration of the season is spoiler and what better than providing a resounding upset that potentially eliminates a rival team from competing in the NCAA tourney this year.