Leslie Monteiro looks at the future of Seton Hall basketball.
A sports team or a sports program never graduates from a developmental stage. They evolve and get better.
Seton Hall finally graduated from Point A to Point B, which is building a program to being a tournament team this season in Kevin Willard’s sixth year of coaching the men’s basketball program.
The job now gets harder for Willard and his sophomores. The next step is sustaining excellence and winning a NCAA tournament game next season.
Willard will likely have all of his sophomores returning. It’s a good bet Angel Delgado, Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez will stay on one more season. While there is speculation about Isaiah Whitehead thinking about going to the NBA Draft, the opinion here is he knows he can use one more season in college to get more seasoning.
Expectations are going to be high for the Pirates. Fans want more out of this program with the sophomores likely going to get better as juniors. This is the best chance for them to do big things next year.
It’s about going as far as they can next season. The Pirates haven’t won a NCAA tournament game since 2004 when they lost to Duke in the 2nd round. 12 years is a long time.
Not even winning a round is going to be good enough. It’s about going to the Sweet 16 if Whitehead stays for one more season. They need to capitalize on this opportunity while the Pirates have their stars.
This is about doing better, not just settling for a tournament appearance.
Make no mistake. Teams will be gunning for the Hall now that they are good. The Hall won’t be an easy opponent for anyone in the Big East, so they know they have to match the intensity the other teams are going to be showing next season.
It will be interesting how the players handle that.
They need to do better than they did this season. For instance, Delgado and Rodriguez can’t be disappearing in the second half like they were prone to do this year. They need to get big baskets when they have to in the second half. They can’t rely on Whitehead to score in crunch time.
Carrington needs to build on his play in the Big East Tournament. He was a player that made shots from the three-point arc against Creighton, Xavier and Villanova. He has to try to score in the paint to go along with being a three-point player.
He has to know how to man up against good defense. In the game against Gonzaga, he withered against Gonzaga’s big men. He did not go to the paint, and he was passive by handing the basketball to his teammates rather than shoot.
Whitehead should be a polished player heading to next season. He figured the game out by being an all-around player in February. When he couldn’t shoot, he was a facilitator. He also relied on his defense to set up his guys on offense. He has a flair for the dramatic in making shots in a tight game.
He has to ask himself if he wants to do better. There’s always room for improvement for stars. Whitehead’s goal should be the best player in the country. He has the talent to do so. He has to demand more out of himself.
The Seton Hall star can’t let a horrific performance against Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament define him, which he scored 10 points on 4-for-24 shooting.
This type of performance could be good for his development. It means it should serve fuel for desire to work harder to be the best player he can be. He can’t let anything get in the way. He let the altitude get to him, which he became scared to go to the rim to score.
Everyone is going to rely on him to be the man at Seton Hall now. That means he has to show up every game by putting on great performances each and every game. Does he have it in him remains to be seen?
How the players improve will determine what Seton Hall does next year.
The talent is there. The potential is there. It’s about the will.
The Pirates need to do better than mediocrity. They need to be a national championship contender. They must be a Big East contender. They have to be a playoff fixture every year.
They can’t use this past season as an achievement.
It’s about being great for Seton Hall.
After 12 years of not winning a NCAA tournament game, this should be a lofty goal.