Seton Hall is officially struggling, or going through it as Kevin Willard said a handful of times after his team's 77-57 loss at Butler on Sunday.
They competed with the Bulldogs for about 10-15 minutes in the middle of the game but were thoroughly outplayed for the other three-quarters and were run out of the building by a crippling 27-3 run that answered Seton Hall's first lead of the game. The last eight minutes were played with the outcome firmly established.
Kevin Willard eventually called the loss "embarrassing" and said Butler "destroyed" his team on AM 970 after the pasting, but reaffirmed the confidence he has in his guys and said he has to help them figure it all out going forward. Willard also provided an update on freshman guard Isaiah Whitehead, who he doesn't expect to play until after Xavier, which remains unchanged since his update on Thursday night post-DePaul.
Seton Hall is struggling in transition without Isaiah Whitehead. They were officially shut out 6-0 on the fast break by Butler (remember Sterling Gibbs drew a foul on an easy layup but it wasn't awarded or the 4 on 1 break they failed to score on?) and haven't been overly potent in transition over their last five games. Seton Hall won the fast break battle 11-0 against Villanova and scored 17 points in the open court against St. John's (17-14). This was an area I chalked up as a key to the game for the Pirates and they obviously didn't deliver with Willard saying post-game that transition play hurt the team.
The players need to hash out any frustrations on their long bus ride to Milwaukee. Brandon Mobley and Angel Delgado were visibly frustrated at multiple points during the game and Sterling Gibbs (and three teammates) didn't hustle back on defense after Jaren Sina turned it over in transition, all affects of the team not playing well. Mobley also tweeted this after the game. This is not only on Willard but also the players, specifically the leaders and seniors, on the team.
What does the timing of Butler's run say about Seton Hall? I wasn't overly surprised to witness that 27-3 run from a hard-nosed Bulldog team, but from a Seton Hall perspective, what does the implosion say when coming right after the Hall had finally earned a lead for the first time in the game? It wasn't Butler's first run either, they also built their first half lead by way of a 19-5 surge.
Has Ismael Sanogo leapfrogged Stephane Manga and Haralds Karlis in Willard's rotation? I predicted this after Sanogo saw early time against DePaul coupled with Manga and Karlis struggling early and often. He picked up a ton of fouls, but did a decent job on Roosevelt Jones (more on this below) and tallied his first Big East points off an offensive rebound in 21 minutes. Sanogo also officially had three blocks in his first career start. I'd like to see a little more of a freshman with potential like Ish before reaching a final verdict, but he's starting to make a case for seeing minutes over Manga and Karlis.
On how he thought Ismael Sanogo did on Roosevelt Jones: "It started well and in the beginning of the second half it really started well. He wore him down a little bit, was able to get deflections, I thought he gave us some energy at the beginning of the second half, did some good things matching him up and playing him - I thought he did a good job."
On Isaiah Whitehead: "He's not coming back for at least two more games - we have Marquette and Xavier - hopefully after Xavier we get him back. Then everyone is going to have to be real patient with him because he hasn't played in six weeks."
On where the team is at: "I have great confidence in this team, I really do. We'll figure it out. Long season, we've done some great things so far but we're struggling right now. I'm not going to go crazy, right now we're going through it, going through it mentally, going through it physically. I've got six guys are now going through the grind of college basketball for the first time, being around each other this much for the first time. Jaren is only a sophomore. Sterling has been playing great. Brandon has never played this many minutes, he's always had Patrik [Auda].
"It's a learning process for these guys and they've had to figure it out, they've lost it a little bit, I've got to help them figure it back out. Whether they have Isaiah or not, they did it without Isaiah, we can do it again and when Isaiah comes back it'll give us another punch."
On Jaren Sina's slump and keeping him in with the reserves late in the game: "I kept him out there because I wanted him to keep shooting and hopefully see the ball go through the hoop. Kids and players go through good times and bad and J is going through a tough time. He's a sophomore, he doesn't have it all figured out yet. He doesn't understand yet why he's in a shooting slump, I thought he got great looks today in the first half, he really did. Those are the looks I have great confidence in him making.
"He's struggling a little bit, I've told all these guys - it's a fault of mine - I have great confidence in all of them to shoot the basketball and make a play. Sometimes you've got to let these guys go through it a little bit and tell them you've got confidence [in them]. I have confidence in this team, obviously I don't like getting destroyed on the road and a little bit embarrassed but sometimes that happens and you've just got to figure it out.
"I felt like we were going to go through this at some point. I thought we were going to go through it a lot earlier and we didn't. You have to teach these young kids how to get out of this and it's not an easy league right now to get out of it but we've got to figure a way but we'll find it, I have confidence in them."