By Andy Mac Williams, 1/1/2019

Many pundits even Andy Mac thought Seton Hall might have a struggling "down year" after losing four impact Seniors to graduation. Angel Delgado was one of the best rebounders in BIG EAST history. Dezi Rodriguez scored against any defense when he wasn't feuding with Coach Kevin Willard. Lefty PG Khadeen Carrington was a terrific four year starter and Ish Sanogo could defend and rebound when he wasn't suspended. The Hall made three straight NCAA trips with this group. Everybody assumed SHU would start slowly especially against a very demanding non-conference schedule. Willard and the Pirates are having the last laugh so far. Seton Hall is a strong 10-3, 1-0 in the BIG EAST with an active 6 game winning streak. Their stats are not killer impressive, but their results are.

Willard's teams play pestering constantly morphing defense. They compete well for 50-50 balls and they have one of the top streak shooters in college basketball 6-2 Junior guard Myles Powell. Powell is unquestionably "THE MAN" this season without the departed Seniors. He gets his shots off against every form of junk defense and rains in threes and parades to the foul line. The attitude seems better with a younger group of players and SHU is now closing out those tight games they used to blow because of poor free throw shooting or lack of defensive stops or ego clashes. Give Willard tons of credit! He's filled holes with transfers and developed hold over talent that sat the bench or played sub minutes behind the departed BIG FOUR.


Things have gone well since a 1-2 start with a Gavitt Games loss at Top 25 Nebraska and a home defeat by St Louis. The Pirates won the Wooden Tradition in SoCal. Powell exploded for 40 against Grand Canyon(coached by Thunder Dan Majerle) and upset Top 25 Miami(Fla) in the championship game. SHU stumbled at home against Chris Mack's U of L Cardinals losing 70-65 on December 1st. Since then, they are 6-0 with an OT victory over Top 25 Kentucky at MSG when UK forced overtime with a lucky half court prayer and Powell poured in 28.

The Pirates won their nasty New Jersey war against Rutgers-beat Maryland on the road and Saturday showed grit and got lucky late upsetting 12-0 St Johns 76-74 in Newark on a buzzer beater"three" from former walk-on and Sophomore guard sub Shavar Reynolds. SHU trailed until the final minute. They were down 10 to STJ with 6:30 to play.

St Johns helped when their best FT shooters Shamorie Ponds and Mustapha Herron missed front ends of FT one and ones in the final 44 seconds, but Reynolds drained the fall away bomb to win it!! Seton Hall is dangerous and confident and used to surviving in difficult venues vs talented opponents.


Powell stirs the drink. He's a knock down long range shooter with extreme range who seems to find ways to launch against any defense plus he will attack the rim and get to the foul line. Powell averages 22.5PPG #14 NCAA #2 BIG EAST behind ST Johns Shamorie Ponds(25PPG). He takes 15 shots/game seldom forcing offense. He's not a flat-out gunner, but knows his role as prime scorer. He plays his best against the best(27 vs UK and Maryland-28 Rutgers).

Powell likes Cintas Center rims(26 and 30 points in two Seton Hall losses in Cincy including 11-24 from three). As the defense gets tighter, Powell steps back and shoots deeper. His fall away release is almost unguardable. Powell is not alone. 6-8 Senior forward Michael Nzei just made the BIG EAST Honor Roll for his work in the wild win over St Johns(14 points-10 rebounds).

PG Quincy Mc Knight is a rangy 6-4 transfer from Sacred Heart(Cane Broome's former school). He runs the point efficiently-makes FTs and keys their ever changing press looks. Xavier has handled SHU's pressure pretty well especially at Cintas. Hopefully-Willard is stuck with settling for half court defense vs XU.

This Xavier team does thrive against pressure and scores well in transition. The Muskies have seen quality presses from Auburn and Illinois and full court mayhem from Eastern Kentucky. SHU is sneaky long with Mc Knight at 6-4. Soph wing Myles Cale is starting at 6-6(9.2PPG-4Rebs).

The most improved player is 6-10 Soph Sandro Mamukelashvili(10PPG-8Rebs). He's much more mobile and floats out to take threes now. 7 footer Romero Gill has had some good moments. Syracuse transfer Taurean Thompson(6-9) subs in and can play when he forgets he's not a three point threat.

Frosh Anthony Nelson(sub PG) and Jared Rhoden(solid 6-6) are affective role players. Seton Hall seemingly does not knock your socks off statistically. They are -0.7 rebounding. They shoot just 32% from three. But they are a low fouling defense. They do not turn the ball over a lot and they are much better than usual at the foul line(71%) versus the mid-60s. And they have Powell. And they have won close games under pressure.


Xavier showed plenty of grit winning the final war 19-4 at DePaul and posting that first road win in the BIG EAST opener. The talented core four(Gooden, Marshall, Scruggs and Jones) all played well. Naji won BIG EAST Player of the Week(19 points-14 rebounds-4 assists-great all court hustle) coming off a back issue. Tyrique controlled the paint in the final 5 minutes. His steal and dunk against DePaul PG Devon Gage secured the win. Tyrique scored inside-drained FTs-blocked shots and blotted out the sun on the glass. Quentin Gooden took DePaul star Max Strus out of the game with focused defense as he had vs Detroit scoring machine Antoine Davis.

Ryan Welage knocked down 5 threes against zones and in transition. All the parts need to work to beat Seton Hall. Defense against Powell is JOB#1. Expect Paul Scruggs and Q and Marshall to share in the work load. If SHU continues to press, XU must attack and score to run them back to half court. Jones and Zach Hankins should be able to prosper on the block and maybe get BIG Mamu in foul trouble.

The winning formula consists of good ball security-more Fts than the opposition-selective inside-out passing to set-up prime three point snipers Welage and Scruggs-and solid work from the core four. 2-0 in the BIG EAST is the goal with a tough trip to Marquette on the schedule Sunday afternoon(Noon Tip-Fox WXIX 19)

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