Depending on first round outcomes, Seton Hall will play either Clemson or Gardner-Webb in the second round of the 2014 Paradise Jam after a match-up with Nevada in the opening round.
The Clemson Tigers will likely be double digit favorites to beat Gardner-Webb in the first round after just missing the 2013-14 NCAA tournament despite losing their best player in K.J. McDaniels (17.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg) after he declared for the NBA Draft and was selected 32nd overall by the Philadelphia 76ers. However, Clemson retains a pair of seniors in guard Rod Hall (9.7 ppg, 4 apg) and forward Damarcus Harrison (7.8 ppg) that look to play crucial roles next season.
Roster subtractions: K.J. McDaniels (17.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg), Devin Coleman (5.4 ppg), Adonis Filer (3.9 ppg), Ibrahim Djambo (1.9 ppg)
Returnees to watch: Rod Hall (9.7 ppg, 4 apg), Damarcus Harrison (7.8 ppg), Jordan Roper (7.4 ppg, 33-103 3pt), Landry Nnoko (6.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg)
Key additions: Gabe DeVoe (Shelby HS, N.C.), Donte Grantham (Hargrave Military Academy, Va.)
McDaniels, Hall, and Harrison were the top-three scorers for a 23-13 Clemson team that made it to the NIT semifinals last season. 6-10 Landry Nnoko will need to be a force in the paint this season while sophomore Jaron Blossomgame (4.9 ppg, 5 rpg) will see more time along with incoming freshman Donte Grantham (75th in 2014, Rivals) at the four. Freshman scoring guard Gabe DeVoe (Shelby, N.C.) may also see some time off the bench at guard along with Jordan Roper. DeVoe averaged 34 ppg as a senior at Shelby in North Carolina.
Although Clemson loses their best player, they return most of their core, including four starters. After finishing 2013-14 ranked 79th in RPI and 50th in KenPom, similar or slightly worse (75-125 RPI) numbers should be expected this season. Rated top-50 in seven different KenPom defensive categories (AdjE, eFG%, FTA/FGA, 3pt%, 2pt%, FT%, block%) last season, the Tigers look to be the toughest team that Seton Hall will have to face on their 2014-15 schedule.
The only way Seton Hall should want to play the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs is if they upset Clemson in the first round. Second year head coach Tim Craft is fresh off an 18-15 campaign that ended in the second round of the Big South Conference tournament.
Second and third leading scorers Naji Hibbert and Donta Harper are lost from the 2013-14 Runnin' Bulldogs, leaving minutes to fill at the two and three, respectively.
Roster subtractions: Naji Hibbert (11.5 ppg), Donta Harper (10.1 ppg, 4 rpg), Onzie Branch (5.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg), Josh Castellanos (4.9 ppg, 2.8 apg), Mike Byron (3.1 ppg), Logan Stumpf (2.2 ppg)
Returnees to watch: Jerome Hill (14.4 ppg, 8.5 rpg), Tyrell Nelson (8.9 ppg, 5 rpg), Tyler Strange (9.5 ppg, 4.9 apg),
Key additions: [none]
Gardner-Webb doesn't add any freshmen of note but do gain a trio of junior college players in guard Harold McBridge, shooting guard Dylan Poston (former Mercer commit), and power forward Herve Aholode. They join key returnees in power forward Jerome Hill, point guard Tyler Strange, and forward Tyrell Nelson. Strange and Naji Hibbert teamed up to give Gardner-Webb the 58th best defensive turnover percentage and 35th-best steal percentage by leading the team defensively last season.
2013-14 yielded a final KenPom rating of 240th and RPI of 241st for Gardner-Webb; similar numbers (200-250) should be expected again this year.
Next Monday, we preview Seton Hall's four potential third round opponents at the Paradise Jam by covering the other half of the bracket: LSU, Old Dominion, Illinois State, and Weber State.