At one point last year it looked like Seton Hall had it all figured out. The Pirates were rolling, with impressive wins against George Washington, St. John’s and Villanova, especially with the Johnnies and Wildcats ranked in top-15 at the time.
But then it all went downhill. After beating Villanova, Seton Hall lost four of its next five including an ugly loss to DePaul at home. However, the Pirates bounced back winning their next two games, including a high-scoring victory over Xavier. Then another loss at DePaul sent them into a tailspin losing nine of their last 10 games and missing the entire postseason.
On top of that, starting guards Jaren Sina left the team in the middle of the season and Sterling Gibbs was suspended after punching a Villanova player and then transferring to Connecticut.
So, heading into the 2015-16 season what are the expectations for Seton Hall? How hot is the hot seat Kevin Willard is currently sitting on? Can the impressive sophomore class led by McDonald’s All-American Isaiah Whitehead lead Seton Hall to the NCAA Tournament?
The first thing Seton Hall must do in order to be remotely successful this season is mend the locker room. Last year there was a reported divide between upperclassmen and the younger guys, which ultimately led to Sina’s departure. Willard needs to make sure the team is on the same path starting today so when the season tips off it’s not every player for themselves on the court. This is the only way Willard can save his job. If he doesn’t do this correctly, don’t be surprised to see Willard canned halfway through the year because of media reports of another locker room disaster.
The one thing Seton Hall will be able to cope with is the loss of Sterling Gibbs, despite being voted to the Second Team All-Big East last year. This is thanks to the transfer of Derrick Gordon from UMass. Gordon is a veteran point guard that has experience playing at a level close to the Big East and can help run a team, letting Whitehead play off the ball and take advantage of his skillset.
There’s also the duo of Whitehead and Angel Delgado, which form one of the better duos in the Big East. Whitehead, we know all about. The high-scoring guard who is the biggest commit of Willard’s time at Seton Hall, but did miss some games last year due to a foot injury. Delgado, another sophomore, is the epitome of a post player. He rebounds, defends, fouls hard and cleans up all the scraps to be one of the best big guys in the conference as well. These two need to be consistent all season and live up to the hype in order to help Willard keep his job.
Then there’s the question of can Seton Hall compete. This is quite literally a massive question mark. To start the season off, the Pirates are outside the top half of the Big East, behind the likes of Villanova, Butler, Xavier and Georgetown. Then the Pirates fall in with Marquette and Providence. Would it surprise me if Seton Hall finishes in the top three? No. What about ninth? Nope.
It all falls on the broad shoulders of Isaiah Whitehead.