Seton Hall was robbed at the chance to win a championship this year and it’s up to Kevin Willard to keep the Pirates at this level.
Sometimes, life just isn’t fair. Seton Hall has never won the NCAA Tournament in its history, but 2020 had the potential to be different. The Pirates were a battle-tested team in the Big East with a transcendent player in Myles Powell.
Steady seniors like Quincy McKnight and Romaro Gill combined with vital role players like Sandro Mamukelashvili and Jared Rhoden to form a formidable unit. Winning a share of the Big East regular-season crown, it’s safe to say the Pirates were capable of making a run during March Madness.
Unfortunately, we’ll never know if Seton Hall had what it took to win it all this year. The outbreak of coronavirus forced the NCAA to cancel the tournament and leave every team wondering, what if?
The NCAA is flirting with the idea of allowing seniors to gain another year of eligibility, but it seems unlikely that Powell would come back for another year. His focus should be on carving out a career in the NBA.
“I don’t want to close any doors or say I would definitely come back,” he said via Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press. “I’d really sit down and think about it. If I sat down with guys who are NBA GMs and they told me another year in college would help me, I would do that. Whatever it takes to get to the next level.”
Although he’s not ruling anything out, the senior guard has nothing to prove in the college ranks. Powell’s graduation will mark the end of an era in South Orange, NJ, but it shouldn’t be the end of Seton Hall’s success.
Willard’s continued success
Head coach Kevin Willard is building something special at Seton Hall. Willard has had more success with the Pirates than any coach in decades.
Had the NCAA Tournament taken place, the Pirates would have been dancing for the fifth-straight year which would have been the longest streak in Seton Hall history. They went to five in six years during P.J. Carlesimo’s great run in the late ’80s/early ’90s, but never five consecutive.
Powell’s rise to stardom played a major role in Seton Hall’s recent success, but it started before he reached campus. It started with four local recruits—Isaiah Whitehead, Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez, and Khadeen Carrington. Those four helped bring the program out of the depths of the Big East conference and into the NCAA Tournament year after year.
After losing those four studs to the NBA and graduation, Willard reloaded with Powell, McKnight, and Gill. It’s time to do that once again.
There’s no time to waste
Coronavirus is bringing the sports world at large to a grinding halt, but the college basketball recruiting trail is still well-traveled. The Pirates have already been linked to standout guard Erik Stevenson who is one of many players transferring out of Wichita State.
According to Jake Weingarten of Stockrisers.com, Seton Hall made an offer to Santa Clara Graduate transfer Tahj Eaddy already. In two years at Santa Clara, Eaddy averaged 12.0 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game.
Picking up talented players off the transfer market has become a key to sustained success for teams like Seton Hall. McKnight came to South Orange as a transfer from Sacred Heart and Gill came by way of junior college. Stevenson and Eaddy can both be strong pieces on a great team, but neither will be able to fill the shoes of Myles Powell.
Fortunately, there’s another graduate transfer on the market who might be able to do just that. Harvard’s Bryce Aiken missed most of the 2019-20 season with a foot injury, but he could be returning to his Jersey roots to finish out his college career.
Aiken told Evan Daniels of 247Sports that Seton Hall is among the teams who have already reached out to him. Willard recruited Aiken out of high school so there’s already a relationship there. The dynamic 6-foot guard could be the best guard available on the transfer market.
During his junior season at Harvard, Aiken averaged 22.2 points on 43.4% shooting from the floor and 39.8% from deep. The comparison between Aiken and Powell may be simplistic, but they’re both scoring guards who can get a shot whenever they want.
Don’t expect anything on the transfer market to materialize quickly. Coaches can’t meet with recruits of any kind until at least April 15. Things will slow down for a little while.
The 2019-20 season ended in disastrous fashion for every team in college basketball, but it will always go down as a missed opportunity for Seton Hall.
However, Willard knows how to restock the shelves. The next few months will shape the future of Seton Hall basketball.