With the final month of basketball here, teams like the Seton Hall men’s basketball are probably feeling the tension and stress build up as each game becomes more important for their NCAA Tournament resume.
After a historic season with superstar Myles Powell, the Pirates became a team that would rely on the power of returning seniors Myles Cale and Sandro Mamukelashvili and the great coaching from Kevin Willard. For most teams, that would be more than enough to claim a top-three spot in a conference, but with Big East teams like Villanova, Creighton and Xavier, it’s hard to catch a break.
Though the Pirates have fought an uphill battle most of the season, after Wednesday’s 60-43 win against Providence, Seton Hall is pushing itself in the right direction to sneak into the NCAA Tournament once again.
The team, led by Mamukelashvili’s 17.6 points per game and 7.1 rebounds per game, currently holds a 10-8 record and a 7-5 mark in conference. The Pirates have picked up wins over Iona, Xavier, Marquette and now Providence. They previously lost to Providence in December, 80-77, in overtime. They also dropped two games a piece to No. 3 Villanova and No. 15 Creighton, but they held their own in those games.
Mamukelashvili has been the source of height and power for Seton Hall, scoring both in the paint and behind the arc, shooting 32 percent. His athleticism has helped keep this team in the mix. Close wins and close losses have kept the Pirates in the tournament discussion.
Andy Katz’s current mock bracket has Seton Hall picked as a No. 9 seed, and the most recent projections from Nothing But Nylon (from Friday, Jan. 29) have the Pirates right outside of the Field of 68. ESPN has them playing Arkansas for a No. 11 seed. Seton Hall is holding strong in the bracketology as either a First Four at-large bid or a solid No. 9 or No. 10 seed.
But things got much more tight in the Big East after both Villanova and Creighton lost Wednesday. St. John’s handed Villanova one of its worst losses all season, 70-59. The Johnnies, 12-7 and 6-6 in conference, are only 2.5 games behind first. Seton Hall, UConn and Xavier are all tied for second place.
UConn is currently sitting as a No. 10 seed in ESPN’s latest mock bracket, but the Huskies are a First Four team, along with Xavier. They are a No. 8 seed in Nothing But Nylon’s bracket. The Pirates sole win against Xavier will most definitely be a large factor when the tournament committee considers Seton Hall.
The Pirates play UConn twice in the last month, first on Saturday and then again in early March, then will end its season against St. John’s. These will be the defining games for the Pirates, but with only six games left in the season, they may have to win out to get any support for an at-large bid.
But the odds are still in the Pirates’ favor as the team plays Big East bottom-feeders Marquette, DePaul and Georgetown. A loss or two by UConn, Xavier or St. John’s will play into Seton Hall men’s basketball, but its postseason hopes will most likely rely on its games against the Huskies and the Johnnies.