Seton Hall's Willard Says He Will Revamp Scheduling in Wake of NCAA Slight | Zagsblog
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Monday / December 6.
  • Seton Hall’s Willard Says He Will Revamp Scheduling in Wake of NCAA Slight

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    Kevin Willard’s current team is not going dancing, but his former team is.

    Seton Hall on Sunday was left out of the NCAA Tournament field of 68 and will host Stony Brook in an NIT game Tuesday at Walsh Gym instead.

    Iona, where Willard coached for three years until 2010, was a surprise selection and will compete in a play-in game Tuesday night against BYU in Dayton, Ohio.

    “Oh, I’m ecstatic [about Iona],” Willard said Sunday on a conference call. “The way that program was four years ago or five years and for them to get an at-large bid, I couldn’t be happier. I still have four kids on that team that I recruited. I’m happy for everybody that made the tournament, especially Iona, for obvious reasons.

    “I’m really ecstatic for the fan base. When I got there, that was a fan base that, I wouldn’t say was beaten down, but they had been through some tough times. And now  for them to get an at-large bid it’s tremendous for that program, I’m very happy for them.”

    Seton Hall, meantime, missed out on its first NCAA bid since 2006 despite winning eight games in the Big East and 20 overall.

    “My two seniors [Herb Pope and Jordan Theodore] took it hard, really hard,” Willard said. “It was tough to console them. It was a really emotional time for both of them. They both gave so much of this year to us and have come through so much at this university. I think they’ve both overcome tremendous obstacles, but at the same time they’re both really excited to still be playing.”

    Willard said his main take out of all of this was that he planned to revamp his scheduling going forward.

    “I think I’m going to do it more like Louisville does it and Syracuse and the Dukes and Kentuckys do it,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to play any away games and stay home at all times. I thought we put together a really good non-conference schedule to help us out, but at the same time all the teams that got in are great teams. They’re well-deserving.”

    Seton Hall appeared to control its own destiny heading into its final two league games, but lost at home to Rutgers and then got drilled by 28 points at DePaul.

    They beat Providence in the first round of the Big East Tournament but probably needed to upset eventual tournament champion Louisville in the second round to become the 10th Big East team in the dance.

    “Unfortunately, I think they probably looked at the last two games of the season,” Willard said.

    Two years ago, Seton Hall lost to Notre Dame in the second round of the Big East tourney and then fell to Texas Tech in an NIT game at the Prudential Center. Pope punched an opposing player in the groin during that game, the fans began chanting for then-coach Bobby Gonzalez to be fired and the following day, he was.

    Now two years later, Seton Hall will host its next postseason game at Walsh Gym, not at The Rock. If the Pirates win, sources said they would likely host a second-round NIT game at Walsh, too.

    “I love the Prudential Center,” Willard said. “It was one of the main reasons I took the job. I think it’s a great venue….

    “But to have an on-campus arena is one of the things I’m really looking forward to. I love Walsh Gym. I love the history of it. I love talking to the alumni about all the great players that played in Walsh Gym.

    “So I’m excited about being in Walsh and playing a very good Stony Brook team on Tuesday.”

     



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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.