Basketball season started up this past weekend, and Iowa’s two opponents didn’t have much of a pulse. Well that all changes, and it changes QUICKLY. On Thursday, Seton Hall comes to town to face off against the Hawkeyes as part of the second annual Gavitt Tipoff Games between the Big Ten and Big East. Seton Hall made the NCAA tournament last season for the first time in a decade and bring back some key pieces from last year’s team, so they should be pretty good.
But what can we expect from them? I got in touch with Sean Saint Jacques, the Seton Hall writer at Big East Coast Bias, and I got to ask him some questions about team expectations, how they matchup against Iowa’s height and depth, and whether or not he thinks they can win. So without further ado, let’s get to the questions.
Max: Seton Hall lost their most important player from last season, Isaiah Whitehead, to the NBA Draft this past summer, but brings back a lot of key players from last year's 25-9 squad that reached the NCAA Tournament. What are the expectations surrounding this team for the 2016-17 campaign?
Sean: Expectations are still high despite losing Isaiah Whitehead to the NBA Draft. The Pirates bring back the rest of that great recruiting class who are all now juniors. Seton Hall's "core four," if you will, are forwards Angel Delgado and Ismael Sanogo as well as guards Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez. All four of those guys were vital to the Big East Tournament Championship last season. Carrington is a great scorer and slasher. Delgado is the best rebounder in the Big East conference and it is not close in my opinion. Sanogo is a great defender and Rodriguez is extremely athletic. Add in some youth and the Pirates are hoping they can get back to the NCAA Tournament once again this season.
Max: The Pirates have started out this season 2-0, with victories against Fairleigh Dickinson and Central Connecticut. What did you learn about this year's Seton Hall team from those contests?
Sean: We have a good idea about what those four guys I mentioned can do so the anticipation surrounded the newer guys of the team. Two in particular. Freshman recruit Myles Powell and Wake Forest transfer Madison Jones.
Powell was an ESPN top 100 recruit who is known as a fantastic shooter and we saw signs of it during the first two games. His numbers were not great, but that stroke is as smooth as they come. For his age, Powell's confidence and work ethic have really stood out so far. He also has the potential to be a great all-around scorer.
Jones started the first game of the season at point guard against FDU and played as well as you can in your first game. He had 10 assists and only one turnover, which is exactly what Coach Kevin Willard wanted. If he keeps playing like that, the Pirates will be in great shape this season. So, what did the Pirates learn? They have a couple of keepers in those two guys.
Max: Iowa is a team that has a lot of length and depth this season, as they very well could play up to 13 different guys in any given game, 11 of which are at least 6'5" in height (but none taller than 6'9"). How does Seton Hall match up against a team like this?
Sean: When I read this question, I thought you were describing Seton Hall because the Pirates are similar. Coach Willard has the luxury of playing 11 or 12 guys as well if he wants and has some depth in the frontcourt. Along with Delgado and Sanogo, the Pirates have Michael Nzei, Rasheed Anthony, Veer Singh and Myles Carter who are all 6'8" or 6'9". Delgado is listed at 6'10" and Sanogo is 6'9" so add all of that up together and it seems like this could be a fun game to watch in the paint.
One thing I will add is that Seton Hall's experienced frontcourt could end up being the difference in this game against talented, but younger players like Tyler Cook and Cordell Pemsl.
Max: The Hawkeyes have been able to put up points at will in their first couple of games, but seem indifferent about the idea of playing defense. Will the Pirates be able to exploit this defense and stifle the Iowa offense?
Sean: Defenses that struggle to get back will have trouble with the Pirates. Seton Hall loves to get out in transition off misses and get easy baskets. If a team is not on their game defensively the Pirates have plenty of firepower to take advantage of that. In the halfcourt, Delgado has been getting a lot of touches so far and limiting him in the paint should be a key for the Hawkeyes.
As far as limiting Iowa's offense is concerned, Jones and Sanogo will be key to defending the likes of Peter Jok and others that the Hawkeyes can throw at you. Coach Willard's team prides itself on its defense and that is what Seton Hall hopes is the key to getting back to where they were last season. The matchup between Seton Hall's defense and Iowa's offense will likely decide this game.
Max: What are a couple of things that Seton Hall will have to do if they want to come out of Iowa City victorious?
Sean: The biggest thing is taking care of the basketball. Turnovers will kill any team, especially on the road. Guards like Carrington, Jones and others who will have the ball need to be smart and makes good decisions. Rebounding will also be key for the Pirates. If they win the rebounding battle, they will be in good shape. One stat to also watch out for is also points in the paint. If the Pirates win that battle, there is a good chance they will win this game.
Max: Alright, it's prediction time. Who do you think will win, and why?
Sean: To no one's surprise, I am picking Seton Hall to win this game. I like their experience in the frontcourt along with solid guard play led by Carrington. The Pirate defense will make big stops late in the game and I believe Seton Hall will win in a close one over Iowa.
Thanks to Sean for his time and insight! Of course, I hope the Hawkeyes knock your team into next season. For more on Seton Hall basketball, check out Big East Coast Bias and follow them on Twitter at @becb_sbn. And as always, go Hawks.