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.
Seton Hall Loses Their Big East Magic, Sets Sights on NCAA Tournament
By DENNIS CHAMBERSNEW YORK — Against Villanova this time around, the ball didn’t bounce off the rim the way Seton Hall wanted it to.
Last season with 18 seconds left in Big East Tournament final, IsaiahWhitehead got his shot to tap the back of the rim before going in. His shot tied the game at 67, his following foul shot gave the Pirates a 68-67 lead that they ultimately held on to for the victory.
But this year, down 55-53 with the final possession the rim wasn’t so kind to the Pirates. AngelDelgado had a clear layup opportunity with three seconds remaining that didn’t find its way to the bottom of the net. As a result, Villanova got their revenge victory at Madison Square Garden over Seton Hall Friday night.
“I just missed it,” Delgado said about the blown opportunity. “Can’t really tell you nothing right now, I just missed. Something that never happened in my life. That’s the first time, and I gotta live with it.”
Following last year’s contest between the two Big East foes, Villanova went on a run in the NCAA tournament and ultimately became national champions.
Even with an unfavorable result this year, Delgado is trying to think positive about the reversed roles.
“We just gotta bounce back,” Delgado said. “Like we always do. We’re the type of team that bounces back. I think we’re gonna do really good in the tournament. I think we’re gonna make a run and everything will be good.”
Entering the Big East Tournament semifinal matchup with Villanova, ESPN’s JoeLunardi projected Seton Hall as a 10-seed against South Carolina in Indianapolis. A two-point loss to the No. 2 ranked team in the nation shouldn’t do anything to hurt the Pirates’ seed on Selection Sunday.
KhadeenCarrington is looking ahead to the next game, just like after any loss.
“The season ain’t over,” Carrington said. “We can’t sit around and mope, we still got more basketball to play. We just gotta stay focused.”
The jubilation of winning the Big East Tournament for the first time in 23 years last season arguably let the air of Seton Hall’s balloon as they entered the Big Dance. They were upset in their first NCAA tournament game by 11-seed Gonzaga, 68-52. Getting one more loss out of the way before entering do-or-die scenarios may provide the Pirates with a better mindset as March Madness kicks into high gear.
But that doesn’t negate the sting of a loss in the conference tournament. Following his final miss, Delgado collapsed face down on the court. Snapping his double-double streak at 13 games, the big man finished with just eight points and eight rebounds. DesiRodriguez wants to make sure that he reminds Delgado of who he is before next weekend.
“There was no need for him to be crying,” Rodriguez said. “He’s the best big man in the country to me, in my eyes. He’s had a phenomenal season and we need him. He’s the core of our team, we need him to move forward. I’m gonna talk to him maybe later, or tomorrow. Hang out with him, go get some lunch, just talk to him. Let him know this is a great team and we got a chance to go far.”
As Seton Hall gets ready to steer their ship back to their second consecutive NCAA tournament head coach KevinWillard knows his team will be ready to fight the way they have all season.
“We’ll bounce back,” Willard said. “We’ll fight back. It’s who we are. It’s what we do.”
And count on their big man to do whatever it takes to avoid any more heartbreak.
“This is my first time feeling like this in my life,” Delgado said. “I can tell you this, I’m about to work harder than ever because I don’t like this feeling.”
Photo: Joey Khan
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