Jeff Robinson and Herb Pope put forth their most impressive basketball of the season in the first half against Richmond on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately for the Pirates, a second consecutive collapse would tell this Christmas story.
The Seton Hall Pirates (thankfully) ended an atrocious non-conference slate with ANOTHER disappointing loss, this time at the hands of Richmond, 69-61. At 6-6 on the year and without one quality win under their belts, the Pirates will ultimately use their conference schedule as a running audition for an NIT bid.
Barring a miracle scenario under the return of Jeremy Hazell where the Pirates win 12-13 BIG EAST contests or win the BET, outright, let's just stop the discussion of potential NCAA bids at this very moment. Last season we weighed the odds of making the tourney after each and every conference win or loss, however, that will not be necessary this season. The non-conference's biggest victory came against a 7-4 Massachusetts squad in Amherst. Let that soak in for a minute. For a schedule that was full of early opportunities for Seton Hall, they failed. They failed at every last one of those opportunities in a season that has been nothing short of a disaster. A train wreck. Twelve games into the season and it feels like we've played 24. It hasn't been fun for the fans and it certainly doesn't look like the players are having any fun.
In a season where many fans were predicting 10 or even 11 victories in the conference, I wonder how many fans would sign off for 7 Ws at this very moment. Of course, there will be a contingent of fans holding out hope for Hazell's return, but what has this team shown that would make anyone think it's possible they can put together a sizable winning streak beginning in mid-January? I don't see how one player's return is going to teach this squad how to close out games. All season long, when presented with a fight in the second half of games, the Pirates trade a few punches (as evidenced with all the lead changes this afternoon), before ultimately falling flat on their faces, square on the canvas. This team as currently constructed, is not built for a battle, not built to win grind-em-out games and frankly, if the Pirates don't get out to a big lead and hold onto it, they just don't have the will to finish off a relentless opponent.
After an impressive first half that saw the Pirates bigs dominate the paint and stay clear of the perimeter, the Pirates built a 5-point lead at the intermission. After a second half full of lead changes, the Pirates held another 5-point lead with 7 minutes remaining. Unlike the early second half collapse against Dayton, the Pirates saved their abysmal play for the very end of tonight's game, allowing the Spiders to reel off a 16-3 run in the final seven minutes. Checkmate.
Justin Harper's 24PTS (good on 6 3-pointers) led the way for the Spiders and Kevin Anderson added 10 of his 14PTS in the final 10 minute barrage that saw Seton Hall submissive against a more talented Richmond squad. A Richmond squad that decided a noon-tip on the day after Christmas was worth their time and effort, something Seton Hall fans will question whether watching this team is worth their own.