Myles Powell’s uncertain injury could give three Seton Hall upperclassmen the chance to shine against No. 3 ranked Michigan State.
There’s no crying over spilled milk. Seton Hall could be without their best player—Myles Powell—for one of the biggest games in program history. Head coach Kevin Willard and his 12th-ranked Pirates are set to play chess against Tom Izzo and the highly-touted Michigan State Spartans.
Michigan State entered the season as the preseason No. 1, but a loss to Kentucky knocked them off their perch before they arrive in Newark for a showdown with the Pirates. That loss, combined with the possible absence of Seton Hall’s Powell takes some of the juice out of this matchup between two Final Four hopefuls.
Powell suffered an ankle injury against Stony Brook on Saturday. While the initial reports signaled a potential “prolonged absence” for the lead guard, there’s at least a slight possibility that Powell suits up on Thursday night in the Prudential Center.
However, Seton Hall fans would be wise not to get their hopes up. As big as a win against Michigan State could be for the program, rushing Powell back too early could lead to disaster.
In the event that Powell doesn’t play, the Pirates have plenty of upperclassmen who can share the load. These three guys have to bring it if Seton Hall has any hope of toppling Michigan State.
This 6-foot-10 forward from Georgia—the country not the state—is Willard’s most proven big man. By the end of his sophomore season, Sandro Mamukelashvili was indispensable, often playing upwards of 30 minutes in big games. For example, Mamukelashvili played all but one minute of the Big East Tournament Championship against Villanova last season.
He scooped up 14 rebounds in that game as he was often forced to play the five due to a lack of frontcourt depth. The additions of the 7-foot-2 Romaro Gill and 7-foot-1 Ike Obiagu allow Mamukelashvili to play more power forward, which is a better fit for the big man.
With the loss of Powell, Willard is going to need a few different players to pick up the scoring slack. No one is more equipped to do that than Mamukelashvili. His 14.0 points on 52.4% shooting this season are a good sign, but Wagner College and Stony Brook are a far cry from Michigan State.
The junior has only converted on two of his seven attempts from three-point range this season. If he can knock down an open look from downtown early, it could open up the rest of his offensive game.
The “other” Myles on the roster has an opportunity to put his season on track. Myles Cale is shooting poorly (2-for-9 FG) through two games this season, but sometimes guys need a big game to flick that switch.
Cale is the most consistent three-point threat on the roster and much like Mamukelashvili, knocking down early looks from deep can open up driving lanes for the athletic guard to exploit. Hitting threes is a tried-and-true method for an upset in college basketball.
As the great equalizer, the Pirates need Cale to come out firing against a Michigan State roster that can score in bunches. Speaking of scoring, stopping Cassius Winston from doing just that will be a tall task for the Seton Hall backcourt.
Winston is coming into the season as a preseason AP All-American with an offensive game to match the hype. As a junior, Winston averaged 18.8 points and 7.5 assists per game. Stopping last season’s Big 10 Player of the Year will be a group effort, but one that will need to include Myles Cale.
Speaking of stopping Cassius Winston, senior guard Quincy McKnight will find himself right in the middle of that assignment. The 6-foot-4 guard is a dogged defender with a knack for showing up in big games.
McKnight was named to the Big East’s All-Tournament team following Seton Hall’s surprising run to the championship game. He’ll need to bring his A-game on defense while also looking to be more aggressive on offense.
When he needs to, McKnight can fill up the box score. In the semifinals of the Big East Tournament, the Bridgeport, CT native dropped 18 points on an efficient 10 shots. He’s the type who will pick his spots on offense, but if Mamukelashvili and Cale are knocking down threes, McKnight can use his wiggle to attack the basket.
There’s no one guy who can step in and assume the same kind of role as Powell. Instead, Seton Hall needs a collection of upperclassmen to step into the spotlight and deliver.
If the Pirates can somehow manage to beat the Spartans without Powell, this little school in South Orange could be destined for big things in March.