The Pirates' losing streak has gone from bad to painful-to-watch. The second half run was encouraging to see, but only a little. The game was decided in the first 10 minutes, when Seton Hall fell behind big right out of the gate to the Cardinals AGAIN.
Here are the 5 thoughts from another disappointing loss:
- Dead on Arrival
Seton Hall fell behind right from the get-go by a score of 15-4 in the first 10 minutes of the game. I thought that since the Pirates were at home, that the crowd would buoy them to victory. I maintain this would have happened, had the crowd gotten into it in the first place. I'm not saying the crowd wasn't pumped up, because they definitely were. Every mini-run the Pirates made, you could sense the crowd was waiting to explode. But it never happened. The fans wanted so much to cheer the team on vigorously from the outset. But the opening run disallowed that. It set the tone for the rest of the night.
Could you imagine if that late-game run could have meant more than just another empty run? It could have had the Pirates not fallen behind so big so early.
- "When You Think, You Stink"
That's a mantra my high school hoops coach used every day. Seton Hall could use a dose of it.
I don't know whether the losses to USF, Villanova and Notre Dame really rattled this team, or whether it's something else. But everyone (including the two seniors) is a step slow on offense right now because they're thinking too much. Coach Willard confirmed this in the postgame press conference, and it showed on the court. the wings aren't ready to shoot like they were earlier in the year, and the offense lacks flow in general. This is a very real issue that isn't easily correctable by any other means other than making shots. Seton Hall won't snap out of this unless that happens.
It's the easiest shot in the entire game. And Seton Hall missed boatloads of them. There was a time in the second half that the Pirates pulled within nine. They got SEVEN straight defensive stops, but could not score because (mainly) of 3 missed layups. In fact, Seton Hall, according to ESPN's play-by-play, missed EIGHTEEN layups last night.
I wish I could go out there on the court and make the layups, but I can't. Just the latest in a series of various types of offensive futility since it broke down on the side of the road in Tampa.
- Too Little, Too Late
The Pirates did make a late run at the game, using a trapping press of all things and a man-to-man defense to force turnovers from the Cardinals, which the Pirates turned into points. They did this so well, in fact, that they cut the lead to just 4 (55-51) before free throws put the game out of reach in the last minute. Coach Willard said he was encouraged by the late run, and since I'd never seen the Pirates play either a man defense or press as well as they did last night. Honestly, that's the one thing to be able to take away from last night.
That's where Seton Hall is at this point. They have good wins over Dayton, West Virginia, and UConn. They also have a horrid loss to Villanova, a likely-to-be-worse-by-the-end-of-the-year loss to USF, and two losses that are wild cards in Notre Dame and Louisville. Heck, the UConn win isn't even a sure thing considering how the Huskies are playing. They are no longer in position to make the tournament, and here's why.
People keep saying that 20 wins (and therefore 5 more in conference play) will get them in. Fine, sure. WHERE ARE THE FIVE WINS? You can't tell me five sure wins at this point in the season. Rutgers? Only the home game is even remotely "sure." DePaul on the road? Ok, I can see that. St. John's or Pitt? Maybe. There are no others.
Rutgers is always tough at home, UConn and Marquette are looking like automatic losses right now based on the way the team has played (and those are the next two games? Goody...), at Cincinnati and home to Georgetown are looking similar.
I maintain that Seton Hall needs a big road win. With Cincinnati getting no love even when they're playing well, and thus leaving that game as a wild-card game, that leaves the next two games (and you know what? Probably only the next one following another UConn loss), especially Marquette, to get it done. You don't win either of those, in my opinion, and this team won't make the tournament. They won't have any quality road wins in-conference, and as everyone knows, the Committee, in sorting out who deserves to make it and who doesn't, looks for any holes in the resumes of various teams to distinguish one from the others. In a year where the Big East is eating itself alive even more than usual, the possible true quality wins are fewer than ever, and the next game in particular is the only remaining chance where you KNOW that it will stand as a quality win at the end of the year.
The road win is needed in the next two games also because the team needs a roster-wide shot of confidence, and in a big way. Going to either Milwaukee or Hartford and getting a W would do this.
I said the USF loss was bad because of how it happened as much as who it happened to. I said that needed to be nipped in the bud right away. It didn't happen, and now it's doing what I said it could do- fester into an extended losing streak that has a very real shot of breaking the Pirates' season after a 15-2 start. If both of the next two games end up in losses, you can push the panic button.