Seton Hall Pirates
Conference play has finally arrived and the Seton Hall Pirates are ready to prove why they are the preseason favorite to win the league:
The Pirates started the season hot, dominating their weaker opponents to start the non-conference season, but when ever they faced a higher ranked opponent they continuously fought hard and proved that they are just as good but ended up falling short. The Pirates had the 2nd toughest non conference schedule according to KenPom so it comes as no surprise that the Pirates became a much stronger team throughout non-Conference play.
In most of their losses, the Pirates either struggled to maintain a lead, or they lost players early in the game due to injury, which has affected them, but they have found a way to close non-conference play strong. New players emerged, and the Pirates found new ways to win games.
On December 19th, the Pirates bounced back from an embarrassing loss to Rutgers by beating Then No.7 ranked Maryland 52-48. In that game, the Pirates held the terrapins a squad who regularly averages 75 points per game to a season-low 48 points. What makes the win more impressive is that the Pirates did it without Sandro Mamukelashvili and their leading scorer Myles Powell. Both Powell and Mamukelashvili combine for 32 points per game without that 32 points, and the Pirates used their defense and ability to attack the rim to close out games.
The same could be said for their final non-conference win against Prarie View A&M. On December 22nd, we got our first look at the Pirates in person. The Pirates struggled shooting the ball for most of the game, but thanks to a game-high 25 points from Quincy McKnight and 12 points and seven assists from Harlem native Anthony Nelson the Pirates were able to dominate Prarie View in the second half on their way to a 20+ point win. Freshman Tyrese Samuel added a huge boost off the bench with 12 points.
For the senior McKnight, a guard who will be known as their best defender during his tenure as a pirate, being more of a force on offense at times is critical. “ My role was always defense, but when Myles and Sandro went down, I had to step up on the offensive end, and that’s what I have been doing.” When Myles Powell comes back, it’s a sure thing that McKnight will go back to shutting down the opponent’s best guard, but for now, we also know that McKnight could be a force on offense when he gets the opportunity to do so.
Whether it was watching them on TV or in person, the non-conference part of the season showed the growth of this Seton Hall team. In the past, Seton Hall night has struggled without their top scorers, but with Kevin Willard’s ability to make adjustments with getting individual players to step up, the Pirates can survive anything that comes towards them. With how strong the Big East is this year there will be plenty of opportunities for the Pirates to get even more big wins.
This conference season is going to be fun.