Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Seton Hall Sweetens NCAA Bid Case With a Sweep of Georgetown
By DENNIS CHAMBERSNEWARK — Just when you think Seton Hall is down and out, the Pirates pull themselves out of their grave and live to see another day.
On Tuesday night at the Prudential Center, Seton Hall won ugly again – the sixth time in eight games – sweeping Georgetown by way of a 62-59 victory.
For the Pirates, now 19-10 overall, 9-8 in Big East play, an eight-point halftime lead turned into a five-point deficit with just under nine minutes to play.
In a must-win contest, Seton Hall’s vocal leader delivered a much needed message of urgency.
“I told them I don’t wanna be a bubble team,” big man AngelDelgado said in the huddle to his teammates. “If you guys wanna lose this game and go home, just tell me. But that’s not what’s going to happen. I told them we gotta pick it up so people understand what’s our goal.”
The goal Delgado speaks of is a return to the NCAA tournament for a second straight year. Seton Hall hasn’t made consecutive trips to the Big Dance since a three-year run spanning from 1991-94.
Delgado, who set a Big East single-season record for rebounds, notched his 11 straight double-double. His 13 boards Tuesday night puts Delgado over 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds for the Pirates. He has reached double-digits in points and rebounds in 24 of his 29 games this season.
By pulling themselves into an opportunity to finish even in conference play, plus the ever-impactful chance of making a run in the Big East tournament, Seton Hall is sitting pretty in terms of postseason play.
“We were 3-6 and people were giving us our last rights,” head coach KevinWillard said of his team’s turnaround. “This team has found a way, grinded and fought to get to 9-8 … I think good teams find a way to win, and that’s what we are doing.”
Heading into Tuesday’s game, ESPN’s JoeLunardi selected Seton Hall in his “Last Four In” category. The Pirates were projected for a play-in game against a familiar foe, Marquette, in Dayton, Ohio.
With their recent surge, however, and a chance to knock off a top-10 RPI team in Butler on the road on Saturday, Seton Hall could bypass a round of 68 game should they finish their business in the regular season.
Winning at Hinkle Fieldhouse is easier said than done though, and the Pirates have been unsuccessful in each of their chances since the Big East realigned.
“That’s big time,” senior guard MadisonJones said of the road opportunity Butler presents. “Damn, I didn’t know we’ve never won there. Hopefully we can change that … I feel like we’re right there with them, I feel like we can be right there with any team as long as we stick to what we do well and play our game.”
Jones isn’t the only player in the locker room that senses the importance of the Butler game. Look no further than the nation’s leader in double-double’s to hear an echoed sentiment of urgency.
“We need this,” Delgado said. “That’s a big game for us. The guys understand. I think we go into Butler, and I’m going for the win no matter what. We gotta get that win.”
After taking care of business in must-win scenarios, Seton Hall looks forward to another chance on the national stage.
A storybook ride through last season’s Big East Tournament ran off the tracks at the hands of 11-seeded Gonzaga upsetting the Pirates 68-52 in their first NCAA tournament game.
Now a year older, and a year wiser, junior DesiRodriguez believes this team knows what it takes to keep surprising their doubters.
“Last year we won the Big East Tournament,” Rodriguez said. “That was a big accomplishment, but we didn’t know what it took to go in to the NCAA tournament and make a run. We know what it is now, even without (IsaiahWhitehead), we still know what it is. We got a great guard in Madison, and (Myles Powell). We got a lot of guys that just want to win. That’s what it takes, it’s hard work. We’re gonna go as far as our work ethic takes us.”
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