By Kyle Packnick,
Sports Business Writer
With 54 seconds remaining in the Big East Tournament Championship, Villanova regained the lead on a 3-point jump shot from Kris Jenkins. It was the first time that the defending Big East champions and No. 3 nationally ranked Wildcats had led since the opening minutes. Their opponent: Seton Hall. The Pirates were making their first Big East Tournament Championship appearance since 1993. A sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden watched in amazement as Isaiah Whitehead drove to the basket and converted on the game winning “and-one” play. The nation took note.
The Pirates entered postseason play as the No. 3 seed and kicked off the Big East Tournament with a tightly contested 81-73 victory over Creighton. The team relied heavily on their backcourt, with Khadeen Carrington and Whitehead combining for 51 points. Then came No. 5 in the country, Xavier. After a 13-13 stalemate through the first seven minutes of play, Derrick Gordon scored on consecutive fast-break layups to spark a 21-4 run. Xavier battled back, but it would not be enough, as the Pirates rolled to an 87-83 victory.
On Saturday, March 12, Seton Hall defeated Villanova 69-67 to win the 2016 Big East Tournament.
The Pirates were picked seventh in the Big East preseason coaches’ poll. They found themselves on the “bubble” after a solid 10-2 non-conference record, which included quality wins over Georgia and Wichita State. After a 3-4 start to conference play, Seton Hall went on a tear. The Hall has won 12 of their last 14 contests, with both losses coming at the heels of the Butler Bulldogs.
The team unofficially solidified their place in the NCAA tournament upon defeating the No. 5 Xavier Musketeers, before earning an automatic bid by winning the Big East tournament.
For the majority of the season, the Pirates have started five sophomores: Khadeen Carrington, Isaiah Whitehead, Desi Rodriguez, Ismael Sanogo, and Angel Delgado.
This is a young basketball team. University of Massachusetts transfer, Derrick Gordon, is the only graduating senior.
Despite their youth and inexperience, the Pirates have defied expectations and have built an impressive NCAA resume. Beyond the 2016 NCAA tournament, the Pirates have a promising future ahead of them. Next season’s outlook will be heavily influenced by whether Isaiah Whitehead decides to return for another year or enter the NBA draft. Whitehead has remained vague in his remarks regarding that decision, electing to focus his time and effort on the current season.
Seton Hall Men’s Basketball made its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1988 under head coach PJ Carlesimo. The following year, the team made an unexpected tournament run to the NCAA finals, where they were eventually defeated by Michigan in overtime on a controversial foul call.
Under Carlesimo’s leadership, Seton Hall competed in the NCAA Tournament each year from 1991-1994. Following his departure, the Pirates had appeared in the tournament three times (2000, 2004, and 2006). That is until 2016. This season marks their tenth appearance and also snaps a ten year NCAA tournament drought.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, their tournament appearance this year was short lived. In the round of 64, the Pirates fell to Gonzaga 68-52.
Seton Hall should take this defeat as a learning experience and an opportunity for growth.
With a core of young standout players such as Whitehead, the future looks very bright for the Pirates.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 22nd print edition.
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