Seton Hall's defense won tonight/ Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
There was something different about this year's Seton Hall team and it was almost apparent from their opening game against Farleigh Dickenson.
It's something I haven't seen in years covering the Pirates. They were bigger, stronger, and meaner than the teams from years past. There was no niceness to them. A collection of players that are led by Jared Rhoden and have taken on his attitude. I loved covering Myles Powell and Sandro Mamukelashvili but there was something lacking when they were the alpha players on their teams. They didn't have Rhoden's attitude. You see it come out on the court and in the press conferences afterward. His eyes narrowed when I mentioned the word disrespect after the Yale game in the context of coaches and the press writing off the Pirates in preseason polls. I could tell he takes it personally. Rhoden may not have Powell's jump shot or Mamu's size but his effort in building his body and refining his game is unlike any player I've ever covered in South Orange. He's built for war on the court and plays with the state of New Jersey on his shoulders. Do you think he brought that attitude to Ann Arbor on Tuesday? Well...
Make no mistake about it. This is a team full of Jared Rhoden-type players. A team built on defense and attitude. They're not afraid to mix it up and with the emergence of Tray Jackson as a go-to scorer and Ike Obiagu as the nation's best shot-blocking menace, everything is on the table this season.
A Big East championship? Sure.
A run in the NCAA Tournament? Why not?
As long as the team stays healthy and Bryce Aiken and Kadray Richmond can keep turnovers to a minimum at the guard position, this team is built for March. The old axiom about football, "defense wins championships" can also be applied to college basketball. Seton Hall may not field a football team but this Pirates team has that defense attitude even Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh who was sitting in the stands tonight at the Crisler Center could recognize.
Payback. This season is all about it. No more shrugging off losses. No more little brother to anyone in the Big East. Play so tough the refs will be afraid to blow the whistle down the stretch.
Buckle up, we're all in on this now. What we all saw tonight was the shot across the bow to the rest of the college basketball world. There's no reason for any seat to be empty from here on out at the Prudential Center. Next year is here.