It’s a bit of an odd time to be a Seton Hall basketball fan. The team has been consistently pretty good, doing enough to make the tournament and maybe steal a game. When all of this happens, you usually don’t want a change, yet that could’ve been the best thing to happen to the Pirates. A new, upstart Head Coach who just also happens to be a campus legend just seems like the perfect fit. Typically, a coach leaving for a different job would be seen as a negative, but here you could easily make it out to be a net positive.
Last Year in Review:
All things considered, Seton Hall had a pretty solid season a year ago. They finished 21-11 and 11-8 in the conference, which was good enough to make the NCAA Tournament. But, as most reading this know, the season ended pretty rough as the Pirates were absolutely torched by TCU and Mike Miles (who’s the best PG in the country, (I needed to get this one in here, sue me)).
From an outsider's POV, it seemed everything fell apart towards the end of the season. I was stunned looking back to see the Pirates were on a five-game win streak entering the Big East Tournament. I didn’t think they looked any good in either of the two Georgetown games or the Butler game, all of which I remember watching live (glutton for punishment, I know). Especially the game against the Hoyas in the BET, which was like watching paint dry. The following game against UCONN wasn’t much better and never really felt competitive, despite the result saying it was only a ten-point game. But, that’s last year and who gives a rat about that now?
Former Coach Kevin Willard left for the Maryland job, and usually, that means the coaching takes at least a small step back. Dare I say, I think Seton Hall upgraded. Coach Shaheen Holloway comes in after a historic run at St. Peter’s, built upon an elite defense. His defense at St Peter’s last season finished at 25 nationally according to KenPom, which is legit insane.
I’ll be the first to say that I absolutely love Coach Sha. I could watch clips (there are a ton at the end of this article, don't worry) of his interviews for hours, then proceed to run straight through a wall. With a scrappy school in Jersey City, he had them playing incredibly tough and physical defense against much bigger guys and running some absolutely gorgeous sets. Oh, and he ran absolute circles around Matt Painter in the Sweet 16.
So, do I think he’s the guy to bring them back there? Yep. Maybe not this season, but I’d be pretty stunned not to see Coach Sha in a second weekend on a Seton Hall sideline.
The departures at Seton Hall are big time though, losing your top three scorers is a painful blow. Jared Rhoden, Bryce Aiken and Myles Cale all departed, leaving Seton Hall without a clear scoring threat. Ike Obiagu, an elite shot blocker, also leaves after being with the Pirates for seemingly twenty years, leaving the cupboard relatively bare for Coach Holloway. These were arguably the four most important players from a season ago, so you lose quite a bit. Doing some of my own big-time analytic calculations (opening up ESPN and typing numbers into google) these guys accounted for 44.8% of the minutes last season, which is pretty significant.
The visual of Obiagu in a cubicle is far too hilarious to not include. This, of course, is also incredibly impressive to manage to be a high-level student-athlete and have a solid accounting job on the table as you graduate, big respect.
Coach Holloway brings in a pretty solid group of new players, headlined by ACC transfers Al-Amir Dawes and Dre Davis, coming from Clemson and Louisville respectively. Dawes is a combo guard, with a really nice jumper. He shot the three-ball at a near 40% clip last season and could be the focal point for a balanced Pirates scoring attack. Davis meanwhile is a 6’6” wing, who can be a matchup nightmare. He can guard multiple positions and has a versatile offensive game, as he’s effective at posting up smaller defenders, or driving past bigs and getting easy buckets/setting up teammates for open looks. His jumper does leave room to be desired, but he’s a very solid player.
The best defender at St. Peter’s was KC Ndefo, a 6’7” undersized big who was the three-time MAAC Defensive Player of the Year. He’s athletic, switchable and tough, which is the exact identity Coach Holloway looks to build in South Orange. So, naturally, Holloway brought him to Seton Hall. The other transfers Holloway brings in include Femi Odukale, a big physical guard from Pittsburgh, and Abdou Ndiaye a depth piece from Illinois State.
There’s a lot to talk about in regard to their transfers, but Seton Hall does also have the third-ranked recruiting class in the Big East. The class includes two brothers of current Pirates: Tae Davis (brother of Dre Davis) and JaQuan Harris (brother of Jamir Harris). Tae Davis is a wing from Indianapolis (shoutout) who probably could use a bit of muscle, but he’s an excellent athlete who really excels in open space. He has a pretty solid jumper with a nice high release point. Harris meanwhile is a solid hall handler, that has a pretty jump shot, but will seemingly take a little bit to adjust to the college game, given that he’s still recovering from an injury. The last member of this recruiting class is shooting guard Jaquan Sanders, who’s really efficient in catch-and-shoot situations. He’s got very solid skills and profiles as a pretty physical guard who can hit the three-ball from just about anywhere. Sanders may be called upon to provide an offensive spark at times for this Pirates team, and he’s capable of bringing it.
Kadary Richmond has NBA written all over him. He’s a long, athletic, defensive-minded 6’6” PG. That build is more or less exactly what NBA scouts are looking for. He’s got everything but the jumper. He shot the three ball at 34% on under 2 attempts per game, and if he can get that up, he could hear his name called in June. The turnovers are still an issue also, but everything else he does very well. He’s up there for conference defensive player of the year (for good reason) and is a really solid setup man. Richmond is an absolutely perfect piece for Coach Holloway. A long lead guard who’s an elite athlete and an excellent defender? Seems like the perfect fit.
Seton Hall also returns three wings/bigs in Tray Jackson, Alexis Yetna and Tyrese Samuel. Jackson is the best scorer of the bunch, he shot nearly 40% from three a season ago. Samuel and Yetna profile more as small ball five men, with Samuel as more of a versatile four or five men, while Yetna is more of a bruiser, having eight double-doubles last season, including three 15+ rebound performances. Lastly, Jamir Harris returns as probably the best pure scorer of these five guys, averaging nearly 8PPG off the bench last season, shooting nearly 37% from three-point range on five attempts per game. This all comes after he averaged 20.5PPG two seasons ago at American University.
Projecting starters for this Hall team is pretty tough. Richmond and Dawes seem like locks, the rest are up for grabs. Davis seems like the best fit at the SF spot, and for the bigs, I could see Jackson or Yetna starting on any given day. A good problem to have, if you ask me. We also don’t really know who’s healthy now or has been for most of the offseason, so that just adds another variable.
Defense, defense, defense. Any team that will have a good defense is easy for me to buy into. Good defense leads to easier buckets and makes your opponent's day hell. Defense travels. Offense can be inconsistent, defense is a constant. And I am certain this Seton Hall team will be legit defensively. You could not score easy buckets against St. Peter’s. This season with even better athletes, including a 6’6” athletic PG who thrives on defense in Kadary Richmond, do you expect it to get any worse? I don’t. Definitely not.
Defense wins games. Straight up. I like buying into teams that I’m confident will be elite defensively. This Seton Hall team will defend their ass off. A whole bunch of long, physical, athletic players who thrive defensively and fit Holloway’s style like a glove. I have incredibly high expectations for their defense.
The question is the offense. You don't have a Myles Powell-level scorer this year.
Wow a very smooth transition from a tweet that was posted mere hours before this article goes up, wonder how that got there or who would post such a thing.
It's going to have to be much more of a team effort on the offensive end for the Pirates this season. Jamir Harris will need to produce, Kadary Richmond will need to take a jump on this side of the ball, and Tray Jackson, Tyrese Samuel and Alexis Yetna will need to become more consistent offensive producers.
Al-Amir Dawes could potentially lead this team in scoring, but I really expect this team to have a very balanced offensive attack. I would expect to see a ton of the “7 guys have combined for 6+ points” graphics come the end of a game, with the leading scorer having like 12. Someone like Jaquan Sanders will be called upon to produce offensively, Dre Davis will probably be in attack mode, etc. The team will need all hands on deck offensively.
This team is deep and athletic, which is exactly why I trust their defense so much. I just don’t know if I can buy into their offense, yet. Especially with all of the injuries they’ve dealt with in the offseason, I don’t know if they have had the time to develop the chemistry needed for this offense, yet. It’s a wait-and-see. With Seton Hall, it's more of a long-term projection, I expect them to improve and gel more as a team as the season goes on. I don’t think they’ll look like the ________best (you're gonna have to scroll a little further to get this one, bucko) team in the conference on Day One, but as the season goes along I expect to see chemistry develop, roles get defined and guys really start buying in. So long as they can get and stay healthy, that is.
KenPom Projection: Sixth
Coaches Poll: Seventh
RTTG Power Rankings: Sixth
My Pick (Most important IMO): Fourth
Of course, you guys should all be checking out the boys on the pod.
Lastly, here's some obligatory Shaheen Holloway content to get us to the season:
Jamie Erdahl's surprised look when Coach Holloway answers the question might be my favorite thing ever
That was the most shameless bit of self-promo earlier I think anyone has ever pulled, I'm sorry, but I thought of the bit and was too far gone before I knew it.