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 ‘Focused’ On Task At Hand For This NCAA Tournament
By DENNIS CHAMBERSGREENVILLE, S.C. — This week last year was a whirlwind for Seton Hall.
The Pirates had just won their first Big East Tournament championship in 23 years, ended a 10-year NCAA Tournament bid drought and flown across the country in the span of two days.
As a result, the high times came crashing down rather quickly for Seton Hall. Unable to regain their composure, the Pirates fell to Gonzaga in their first tournament game in a decade 68-52, in Denver.
But that’s old news to the current core of Seton Hall’s team. Angel Delgado, Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez are back for another shot at notching the Pirates’ first tournament win since 2004. After dropping their last NCAA game as the higher seed, these Pirates aren’t taking anything for granted this time around.
“This year I believe we have more experience,” Rodriguez said. “Last year we took a big step in winning the Big East championship and we didn’t know how big — maybe we didn’t know how big the NCAA Tournament was.”
Instead of an upset win en route to a conference championship, this year Seton Hall enters NCAA Tournament play coming off a loss in the semifinals to Villanova. For head coach Kevin Willard, that avenue into the Big Dance may prove to be more effective.
“Yeah, I definitely think the vibe is the same,” Willard said about comparing the past two seasons. “I think our attitude is a little bit different. Again, last year was such a whirlwind, winning the Big East Tournament and the Selection Show and leaving for Denver that Monday. I don’t think we ever recovered emotionally. Physically I think we were fine, but emotionally I don’t think we ever got back on track. This year, with a tough loss to Nova, we’re able to have two days where we kind of can get back and get normal. And we’ve had a normal week of preparation.”
Echoing his teammate, Carrington feels like last season may have been overlooked as well.
“I guess we didn’t take the NCAA as important as we should have,” Carrington said.
Friday afternoon’s matchup with Arkansas in the 8-9 game offers Seton Hall the chance to enter a tournament game as the lower seed. It also offers the Pirates another opportunity to accomplish one of their goals they set coming into the season.
“We won the Big East championship, and that was one of our goals coming in,” Carrington said about last season. “And this year, we made it back to the NCAA Tournament. So definitely a win right now would definitely, that’s another goal of ours. So we definitely are working towards that goal.”
Seton Hall left the 2016 NCAA Tournament disappointed. A wildly successful season was halted by a lack of focus. But the 2017 version of the Pirates have a tournament winning appetite to feed, and they plan on doing just that.
“More hungry,” Rodriguez said about Seton Hall’s approach to this tournament. “We mean we’re more focused and we’re taking it one step at a time. We was here last year. We know what everything is about. We know what it takes to win and what we have to do to win. And we have to prepare well and that’s what we’ve been doing so far.”
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