Seton Hall feels better prepared to dance this postseason

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Thursday, March 16, 2017
Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard talks with center Angel Delgado during practice Thursday, March 16, 2017, at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C.
( J.T. Wampler)
Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard talks with center Angel Delgado during practice Thursday, March 16, 2017, at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C.

— As a former Rick Pitino assistant for both the Boston Celtics and the Universty of Louisville, Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard is familiar with teams that get up and down the court.

He’s well aware that up-tempo and waves of players are two things he will see when Arkansas (25-9) takes on Seton Hall (21-11) Friday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. in the NCAA Tournament South Regional at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.

“It’s not an easy thing to neutralize,” Willard said. “It’s quite impressive, in today’s game, especially this time of year, still being able to go 10 or 11 deep. Just about everybody shortens their rotation to maybe eight.

“Even in the SEC Championship game, they were bringing subs in late in the second half, guys that hadn’t played a whole lot. I think that’s what (Arkansas head coach) Mike (Anderson)’s teams try to do. They have always tried to do that. I think he is successful in that.”

Willard, whose team finished in a four-way tie for third in the Big East this season, believes the closest thing that the Big East has to Arkansas is Creighton (25-9), a sixth seed in the Midwest.

“Their tempo is a lot like Creighton,” Willard said. “I think we are lucky to have someone in our league that plays as fast as them. Creighton really likes to get up and down, outscore you, get in the 80s and put a lot of pressure on you.

“So we have kind of gone back to our practice plans when we go against Creighton. A lot of transition drills. But I think it is going to be a little bit of a shocker when we first go out there because we haven’t (experienced it).

“'Nova plays a slow tempo, Marquette plays a fast tempo, but not really. DePaul doesn’t play a fast tempo. So most of our league we’ve played in the second half have been grind-it-out style. We haven’t played Creighton since early February.”

Khadeen Carrington leads the Pirates in scoring at 16.9 points per game and sees the Creighton comparison as well.

“We definitely see that they like to play fast,” Carrington said. “They kind of play like Creighton. Creighton likes to play up and down like that. So we kind of compare them to Creighton. But we like to get up and down also. But we just want to play the game at our pace. Sometimes we’re going to play fast. Sometimes we’re going to slow down, so we just try to keep it at our pace.”

Seton Hall junior guard Madison Jones was clear Thursday that his team was more worried about its own principles and pace than Arkansas.

“We’re not going to play their style,” Jones said. We are going to play our game. We are not going to try and do anything different than we have all done all season.

“Just stick to our morals, stay solid on defense and work.”

Seton Hall has won five of its last six games with Carrington, Desi Rodriguez (15.9) and Angel Delgado (15.3), who leads the nation in rebounding at 13.1 per game and has 28 double-doubles this season.

The Pirates won the Big East Tournament last season, but then lost to Gonzaga 68-52 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

“I definitely think the vibe is the same but our attitude is little bit different,” Willard said. “Last year was such a whirlwind, winning the Big East Tournament and the Selection Show and leaving for Denver that Monday.

“I don’t think we ever recovered emotionally. Physically I think we were fine, but emotionally I don’t think we ever got back on track.”

Rodriguez agrees this year’s Pirates are better suited to compete in this year’s postseason.

“This year I believe we have more experience,” Rodriguez said. “Last year we took a big step in winning the Big East (Tournament) Championship and we didn’t know how big the NCAA Tournament was.

“So, this year, knowing we’re going to be more hungry coming in and be more focused and the junior class and some of the guys that were here last year know what it was, know what it takes to win. So this year I would definitely say we have more experience.”


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