Kevin Willard
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The Seton Hall Pirates’ men’s basketball team was ranked 12th in the opening Associated Press poll, their highest preseason rank since 2000.

Another preseason poll produced another tipoff accolade for the Seton Hall Pirates.

The school’s men’s basketball program was unveiled as the 12th-ranked team in the Associated Press’ opening Top 25 poll released on Monday. Seton Hall was previously ranked at the top of the Big East’s preseason poll.

This is the second time in the past three seasons that the Pirates have appeared in the preseason list (placing 23rd in 2017). However, this new poll yields the Pirates highest ranking at the start of the season since 2000. They ranked 10th in the opening poll before peaking at seventh in what became a disappointing 16-15 season.

Now, hope reigns in head coach Kevin Willard‘s ninth season at the Pirate helm. Seton Hall has won at least 20 games in four consecutive seasons, the longest streak in program history. The team has struggled to advance in the NCAA Tournament (1-4 in the past four editions) but returning talent has observers excited.

Seton Hall will welcome back four of its top five scorers from last season, including leader Myles Powell. The senior was named the Big East’s Preseason Player of the Year after tallying 23.1 PPG last season, good for second in the conference. Fellow starters Myles Cale (10.1 PPG, team-best .378 three-point percentage), Quincy McKnight (9.4 PPG), and Sandro Mamukelashvili (8.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG) likewise return. Notable newcomers include Canadian freshman Tyrese Samuel and Florida State transfer Ike Obiagu (2.1 blocks per game in 2017-18).

The Pirates were one of three Big East teams to appear in the AP Top 25. Three-time defending conference tournament winner Villanova placed 10th, while Xavier came in at 19th. The Wildcats appear in the preseason top ten for the fourth consecutive season. They topped the Pirates in last season’s Big East Tournament championship game at MSG en route to their seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. Meanwhile, the Musketeers look to recover from just their second tournament miss over the past 13 seasons.

Michigan State topped the initial rankings with 60 first-place votes. The Spartans will open Seton Hall’s slate of games at Newark’s Prudential Center with a visit on Nov. 14. That contest will be part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games, an annual series between Big East and Big Ten schools.

Runners-up Kentucky (two) and Kansas (three) also received top nods, while Duke and Louisville rounded out the top five. Defending champion Virginia will start at No. 11. In other metropolitan basketball appearances, Syracuse received three total votes.

Seton Hall opens its regular season on Nov. 5 against Wagner at Walsh Gymnasium on their South Orange, NJ campus.

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