Seton Hall and Iona will play each other for the first time since 2005 on Monday. Two old friends got together to make this game happen.
The 2020-21 college basketball season is going to be anything but normal. Most teams don’t even know their full schedules and are still working to figure out when they will play games. Thankfully, two area teams — Seton Hall and Iona — agreed to play each other on Monday night.
Sources: Seton Hall and Iona are attempting to finalize a game to be played on Monday in what will be Rick Pitino's first game with the Gaels. https://t.co/jewKPh8hhN
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) November 28, 2020
Reports of a potential Seton Hall-Iona game surfaced on Saturday and were later confirmed. Although the Pirates are going to be the heavy favorite in this game, it gives Iona a chance to start their season and get their legs beneath them.
The last time these two schools played (2005), Seton Hall assistant coach Grant Billmeier was starting at center for the Pirates. It’s worth noting that the schools agreed to a rematch next season, likely at Madison Square Garden.
Here are three storylines to watch in Monday’s game (9:00 p.m. ET, FS1).
Rick Pitino vs. Kevin Willard
It’s not difficult to figure out how Seton Hall and Iona agreed to schedule this game. Kevin Willard was an assistant under Rick Pitino for the Boston Celtics and at Louisville for a decade. But Willard’s connections don’t stop at Pitino. He served as Iona’s head coach from 2007-2010 before taking over at Seton Hall.
Pitino, who is very active on Twitter, shared an old memory from his days with Willard at Louisville on Sunday. Monday night’s game will be a battle between the master and his pupil.
Kevin Willard returns home as Iona head coach and I presented him with a Rolex. Tomorrow we travel to Seton Hall. Lost my watch in Greece, so excited to get a new one ? pic.twitter.com/NGdko1BJIP
— Rick Pitino (@RealPitino) November 29, 2020
This will also be Pitino’s first game back in college basketball since his Louisville team lost to Michigan in the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
Seton Hall Bounces Back
Seton Hall opened their season by losing a nailbiter to, ironically enough, Louisville. They erased a double-digit second-half deficit and took a lead in the final minutes, but couldn’t hold on.
Sandro Mamukelashvili led the way with 22 points and 10 rebounds, but the rest of the Pirates struggled to hit shots. The guard trio of Jared Rhoden, Myles Cale, and Takal Molson combined to shot 7-for-32 from the floor and 2-for-14 from deep.
Seton Hall will need their guards to shoot the ball better, especially if they won’t have Bryce Aiken. The Harvard grad transfer was going to play limited minutes on Friday against Louisville after only recently recovering from COVID-19, but he left the game for good after spraining his ankle.
The highly-touted transfer and possible Myles Powell replacement only played eight minutes in his Seton Hall debut. The New Jersey native will be out for at least two weeks with an ankle sprain.
Iona Is Shorthanded Too
Seton Hall will be without arguably its best player on Monday, but Iona isn’t coming into this game at full strength. Pitino has stated repeatedly that the Gaels are not ready to start playing, but they almost have to at this point.
Iona will be missing two starters — Asante Gist and Osborn Shema — on Monday night. Seton Hall already has the advantage talent-wise, but as we’ve seen early in this college basketball season, upsets are happening all over the place. It would be unwise to count out the Gaels.
The Pirates are currently 18.5-point favorites on FOX Bet.