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Where I Come From: Learning to Respect the Seton Hall Pirates

This post is sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.

As you may have seen around the (SB) Nation, EA Sports has asked a series of college bloggers (yes, basketball can participate as well) to take part in a series of posts sponsored by the upcoming release of: EA Sports NCAA Football 2011. The game will be released next week on 7/13 and is always a must pick-up for the sports obsessed gamer.  

In today's post, I wanted to discuss when I became a Seton Hall Pirates fan.  Unlike, many readers of this site, I've actually only been a Pirates fan since 2002-2003, the year I was accepted to attend SHU.  Growing up in Connecticut, I decided at a very young age that I would deviate from the norm and refused to accept fandom into UConn Huskies nation.  Instead, as a fan of the game, I was intrigued by Rick Pitino's match-up press defense, so much so, that I handed my allegiance over to Kentucky.  Watching Pitino's defense, I thought it was remarkable that his men always found a way to put pressure on the ball handler, regardless of the opposition's offensive, "press-breaking" game plan. I had never witnessed anything like it in my early years of watching basketball and I was hooked.  Of course, the Wildcats winning the National Championship in 95-96 didn't hurt my recent affiliation and "fandom." 

As a resident of Connecticut, I watched the majority of Huskies games with the family, until they banished me from the room for cheering against, the "good-guys."  I was familiar with the BIG EAST conference and paid attention to most teams, including Seton Hall despite the Pirates failing to ever stand out in my eyes.  And then there was March Madness of the 1999-2000 season.  Madness it was.  It only took two plays, two plays (both in overtime) which were two days apart and it was official: I respected Seton Hall as a legitimate basketball team.  

First, Shaheen Holloway single handedly dicing the Oregon defense with 8.7 seconds remaining to clinch a first round victory was a thing of beauty.  NCAA coverage must have replayed the clip 30 times throughout the night and each time, I was glued.  Did he really just blow through double coverage? Did he even glance at any of his teammates? I knew the moment was special when I didn't even stop to think, "Nice! I hit my 10-7 upset!" until about 3 minutes (ok, maybe 90 seconds) after seeing the clip.  

Two nights later, Holloway injured his ankle in the first half and left the second round matchup against Temple as his teammates carried him off of the floor.  Backup PG Ty Shine, who hadn't started a game all season suddenly had the weight of his team and his university on his shoulders.  Would he be able to distribute the ball efficiently and facilitate a victory for Shaheen? It'd be a big task, for sure.  Shine didn't just play the role of an efficient facilitator, he simply took over the game.  A reserve who never scored more than 16 points all season, Shine erupted for 26PTS/3REB/5AST with a lights out performance, which saw the sophomore shoot 7-of-11 from 3PT range, including a huge trey with 18.9 seconds remaining in OT to give the Pirates the lead for good.  Of course, the memorable play I referenced above was Shine's clutch 3PT, but a moment just as memorable? Shaheen rising out of his wheelchair, leg wrapped in ice, standing on one good leg, exuberant in the play of his teammate.  

Sure, I wasn't a fan until 2002-03, but those two plays, those two memories, in a 48 hour span made me respect the Seton Hall Pirates from that March on.