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Kevin Willard's explanation for Isaiah Whitehead struggling on his debut was wrong

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Kevin Willard chalked up Isaiah Whitehead's lackluster opening act to a bunch of freshmen in the conference struggling on their debuts this weekend. After further review, this isn't true.

Whitehead didn't have the best first game for Seton Hall, scoring just 2 points on 1-for-10 shooting.
Whitehead didn't have the best first game for Seton Hall, scoring just 2 points on 1-for-10 shooting.
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The consensus explanation coming from Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard and several players after Isaiah Whitehead struggled in yesterday's 63-47 win over Mercer was generally that of freshman jitters. That very well could turn out to be true, with a neutral court environment at the Paradise Jam starting with Nevada on Friday afternoon that could prove to be a springboard for Whitehead's development.

But something struck me as odd in the fine print of Willard's reasoning behind Whitehead not meeting expectations on his debut and it took me until going over post-game quotes today to catch it.

"I thought Isaiah played terrible," said Willard yesterday at Prudential Center in Newark.  "And you know what, I knew he was (going to play that way), I'll tell you why: Last night we had dinner at my house as a team and we left the hotel, I went and checked every freshman - this conference has unbelievable freshmen - I went and looked at every freshman, all the big-time guys, how many minutes they played, how they played, and not one guy in their first game played good."

Not true.

The two other freshmen that I would consider in the same class as Whitehead coming into the season, Georgetown's L.J. Peak and Xavier's Trevon Bluiett, both had great debuts. Peak scored 23 points on 9-for-9 shooting in the Hoyas' opener against St. Francis (N.Y.) on Saturday afternoon. Bluiett registered 18 points and 5 rebounds on 6-for-8 shooting in Xavier's game against Northern Arizona on Friday night. Even top-150 freshman Kelan Martin did well in his first game for Butler as he tallied 12 points, albeit against Maine, who could be beaten by quite a few D-II teams this season.

Ultimately, Isaiah Whitehead probably was a bit too keen on hitting that shot or too anxious to make that play with the weight of Seton Hall's program on his back yesterday in Newark. As Brandon Mobley said of Whitehead, "He was nervous, that's all it was. First college game, he kind of forced the issue sometimes." That's fair, valid, and very plausible reasoning. After all, the kid is human and susceptible to fan and media pressure -- and there is a lot of both.

But it was still a bit strange that Willard, who win or lose must have been expecting questions about his star freshman, led off with a statistical reference that wasn't remotely true to ease the media pressure off of his player.