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.
Kevin Willard gives the latest on Seton Hall’s schedule, roster
By ADAM ZAGORIA
Seton Hall and the other college basketball teams in New Jersey will be able to officially begin practicing 20 hours a week on Wednesday after Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order Monday allowing organized sports considered “medium risk” and “high risk” to resume contact practices and games indoors.
The Pirates — and other schools — were already permitted to practice eight hours a week with limitations.
Heading into the beginning of official practices, here’s a look at where Seton Hall stands on a number of fronts:
The Pirates will play two games in the Orlando Invitational — reportedly against UCLA and either Boise State or Kansas — likely between Nov. 25-27.
Seton Hall has a home game with Baylor Nov. 29 and plays at Rhode Island Dec. 2. It’s still unclear where the Baylor game will be played.
Various other games — Penn State, Saint Peter’s and Rutgers — are in flux.
“I think Big East play is supposed to start somewhere around the 13th [of December] so we’re just trying to fit some more games in that week but also balance finals [Dec. 7-11],”Pirates coach Kevin Willard said.
The ACC-Big Ten Challenge is also set for Dec. 8-9, so Rutgers couldn’t play Seton Hall then.
“We’re all trying to work together but everything’s in flux,” Willard said.
**BIG EAST SCHEDULE**
The Big East schedule will begin around Dec. 13 with each team play 4-5 league games in December. Last year league play began Dec. 29.
“I think it’s necessary because I think you need to build in a couple weeks into the later part of your schedule where you can make up games or be flexible,” Willard said. “Maybe if you have to play Providence a third time or a fourth time because they lost some games, I think it’s important to have those weeks built in.”
Although it’s unclear how many games Seton Hall will play at Prudential Center, Willard said he feels pretty safe in having games at other campus locations.
“With everything the doctors are saying and how we’re going to travel and being on campus by ourselves and testing the amount that we’re going to test, we feel pretty safe that we can travel and play games at each others’ home campuses,” Willard said.
As for The Rock, Willard said he hopes to play as many games there as possible.
“The Rock is our home, so I want to be there because I think we’ve been good partners over the last 10 years and we’ve really grown together,” Willard said. “And if we’re ever able to have fans — at 25 or 50 percent capacity, whatever it is — that’s a place to better space out people.”
As for the league itself, Villanova is loaded again and figures to be the league favorite, with Creighton, UConn, Seton Hall and Providence also near the top.
“I think the league is going to be much more balanced out than year’s past,” Willard said. “I think UConn coming in and going to 20 games, I think it’s just going to add two more incredibly tough games. I don’t know what the bottom of the conference is going to look like, but I think 1 through 8 or 9 is going to be really strong.”
Harvard grad transfer Bryce Aiken is still dealing with a knee injury but Willard said he’s “on track” to start the season.
“We knew going into this that we’re going to have to be really patient and really work with him, so he still looks good for being able to play the first game,” Willard said.
Meantime, Canisius transfer Takal Molson is doing individual workouts and rehabbing an ankle sprain after landing wrong on it.
“Tak had lousy luck, he just hasn’t been able to get in the flow,” Willard said. “I don’t know when he’ll be cleared for team stuff.”
Incoming big man Jeff Ngandu remains stuck in Canada due to COVID protocols. He has a passport from the Congo and needs a visa.
“We’re getting confident as things open up that we’ll be able to get him here sooner rather than later but we’re supporting him 100 percent in what he’s going through,” Willard said.
**REPLACING THE SENIORS**
The Pirates lost an All-American in Myles Powell and two huge senior contributors in point guard Quincy McKnight and shot-blocking big man Romaro Gill.
Willard has stressed that it will have to be a team effort replacing all those guys.
“Guys have understood that there have to be three or four guys who step up for the three seniors that we lost,” he said. “We lost three really good seniors. I think this senior class is excited to step into it. I like the way Jared Rhoden’s really been aggressive. I think they all understand that they all have great opportunities but they’re all going to have to step up at the same time.”
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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.