As part of its preview of the 2016 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense statistics are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All other advanced stats are also from kenpom.com (unless noted otherwise), and are through March 14.
Record: 25–8, 12–6 Big East)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 55/18
Seed: No. 6 in Midwest Regional
Impact Player: Isaiah Whitehead, sophomore, guard. 18.4 ppg, 5.0 apg
The Case For: It begins with Whitehead. Whitehead, a Brooklyn native and a McDonald’s All-American in 2014, was uneven in his freshman season, showcasing flashes of brilliance but also demonstrating equal displays of baffling ineptitude. This season has been different. Out of the shadow of since-transferred guard Sterling Gibbs, Whitehead took off in conference play, scoring 22 points in a win over Xavier, 15 points against Providence and 26 in the Big East tournament final upset over Villanova. His last five games have shown why he was thought of as a potential lottery talent out of high school—averages of 26 points, six rebounds and five assists. The tournament could be the perfect stage for his all-around play. Combine that with the rebounding prowess of Angel Delgado—36th in the nation with 9.4 per game—and the secondary scoring of Khadeen Carrington (14.3 ppg) and Desi Rodriguez (12.5) and the Pirates have a foursome capable of matching up with any team's in the nation. With their defense ranked 18th in adjusted defensive efficiency and 23rd in effective field goal percentage allowed, the Pirates can lock opponents down.
The Case Against: There’s almost no depth. Seton Hall becomes punchless when either Delgado or Whitehead gets into foul trouble. Coach Kevin Willard’s bench runs only two deep, and only senior guard Derrick Gordon plays significant minutes (23.6 per game). The Pirates are incredibly front-loaded, which can create some magnificent performances. But it can also lead to major problems when foul trouble and ineffectiveness come in. Losses from last year’s squad—Gibbs, Jaren Sina and Brandon Mobley—have not been replaced. Teams are free to double Whitehead or Delgado. Depth aside, the Hall is merely average from the line, shooting just 66%. Delgado shoots just 57%, leaving him wide open for Hack-an-Angel games. And then there’s still the lingering stench of last year’s team. Seton Hall had risen into the top 25 after wins against ranked St. John’s and Villanova. But then the Pirates fell apart, losing nine of their last 10. Sina left the program in this stretch, followed by Gibbs bolting for UConn in the off-season. This year’s squad has yet to have a full meltdown, but the memory remains, especially given the players and coaching staff are largely the same. Will they be able to keep it together in big moments?
SI Prediction: Lose to No. 11 Gonzaga in first round.