Under constant evaluation from fans, Chris Mullins rebuild is still in its early stages. As he recruits the area, one program continues to be a regular rival for talent - Seton Hall, who play just across the Hudson for Kevin WIllard, who has built the Hall into a mid-table Big East team. Willard finally looks like he has a core and style talented enough to win despite not having a huge “star”, though they have a trio of standouts and solid defense to help propel them to a likely postseason berth.
To get to know the Hall before the first of two matchups this season, we reached out to Chris from SHU Hoops - asking about playing on short rest, the point guard situation, what makes Desi Rodriguez so good and more.
Coach Kevin Willard seemed to lament the pace of the Hall's schedule - playing three games in six days. Do you think it affected the team? If so, how? How much better will the Pirates be on a week's rest?
Chris, SHUHoops: Kevin Willard was also very vocal (and also justified) when he spoke negatively about Seton Hall playing at altitude against Gonzaga in March and based on the dud his team laid, it’s not crazy to imagine he didn’t set a great tone. Keeping that in mind, it’s possible that after the Hall loss a tight one at Marquette, something flipped for the team mentally going into Providence and obviously it compounded further at Villanova.
Three of Seton Hall’s six losses came on short rest (2 days or less) with two of the remaining coming against Creighton and Florida away from home, so there is an argument to be made that a week in the practice gym will pay off.
Do you feel there is a rivalry between St. John's and Seton Hall - historically and now?
Chris, SHUHoops: If you replaced St. John’s with Rutgers in this question, it wouldn’t be much different. There is a lot more proximity and mutual friends between students and grads of those schools, but the collective level of talent between these two schools has also been lacking in recent years.
I can’t speak to anything prior to the past 15~ seasons, but four of the last seven meetings have been decided by four points or less including three one-point games. Don’t forget how last season’s game in the Garden ended and even some of the Seton Hall-sided blowouts of the Lavin era featured some spice.
All that said, this can grow into a real rivalry if both schools keep adding New York City-based kids like Isaiah Whitehead who are recruited by both schools, can make fan bases dislike each other more, and know guys on the other team.
What kind of team or game can slow down Angel Delgado?
Chris, SHUHoops: Angel is as good as they get when he gets rolling, but he does have a few glaring weaknesses -- at least within Seton Hall’s framework.
Stanford set the standard for opposing teams to scout him when they aggressively doubled him with a pair of 6’10+ guys whenever he touched the ball. Delgado was already prone to being shut down by far superior size but teams now know they can overplay him and force him to pass -- which is he fairly good at for a forward.
Are there any future NBA pros on this roster (not "players who play in the D-League", NBA rotation players)?
Chris, SHUHoops: In one word: No.
But if I had to pick someone, I’ll go with the darkhorse in Desi Rodriguez. I think Angel Delgado is going to make a ton of money overseas while Khadeen Carrington will be right behind him, but Desi’s freakish athleticism and ability to grow as a player provide a higher ceiling, though he isn’t the strongest mentally on the court.
How has the point guard play been for the Pirates?
Chris, SHUHoops: Maybe it’s the stark contrast from watching Isaiah Whitehead last year, but it’s by far their greatest weakness. Madison Jones is quite good against lesser non-conference competition but doesn’t have the skillset to do the job consistently in a high-major conference. He is stout defensively but is rarely a threat to shoot it and could be a lot better at beating defenders off the dribble.
After gaining eligibility in December, Jevon Thomas -- you may remember him -- has not shown much on the offensive end, either. Thomas is even less of a threat to shoot it and has a loose handle that isn’t synced up with his incredible quickness.
What happened with Jevon Thomas and Eron Gordon, who both seemed poised to make an impact this season?
Chris, SHUHoops: As noted above, Thomas was ineligible until the end of the fall semester due to an on-campus assault incident in late January that forced him to re-enroll at Seton Hall and sit out another semester -- he was off the court for 18 months after transferring from Kansas State.
As for Eron, I don’t think many Seton Hall fans expected much from him this year, but he hasn’t made mistakes in the small bits of time given. He was always behind Myles Powell in terms of incoming freshmen and that has played out as expected.
What makes Desi Rodriguez so good? Which Seton Hall player is the biggest danger to a St. John's upset effort?
Chris, SHUHoops: He is a bull in a basketball player’s body (did I do that right?). He’s not notably long, but he’s certainly strong.
Desi was pretty one-dimensional coming out of Lincoln and was only billed as an athlete, and now he’s anything but that. I’m a computer programmer, so the logical way in which he approaches nearly every time he receives the ball on the wing is mesmerizing and just a series of simple decisions. He gets the ball and can put it up from deep at a high rate or take his defender off the dribble if he gets closed down. Then he either keeps driving or dishes it at the elbow. If he keeps driving, he enters freight train mode where he will almost always win the strength battle at the rim.
All of this seems repetitive and predictable but he some how makes it work a lot more often than not.
Which St. John's player should Seton Hall be most afraid of?
Chris, SHUHoops: You tell me.
On a more serious note, I think that Seton Hall should be very concerned about losing the guard play battle. Kevin Willard will probably be kicking himself if that does happen since he recruited both (Ponds a lot more) along with Malik Ellison and Tariq Owens.
Both Ponds and LoVett are fairly proficient from deep which will also cause problems when Jevon Thomas isn’t in the game -- he is the Hall’s best on-ball defender.