Senior-dominated roster looking for NCAA success
Center Angel Delgado’s decision to return for his senior season — after leading the nation in rebounding — immediately meant two things for Seton Hall. The first was that talent would not be an issue for a team looking to make a deep run in March. The other was that motivation would not be lacking.
Delgado and fellow senior starters Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez — all 1,000-point career scorers — still feel the sting from the abrupt and disappointing first-round exits from the NCAA Tournament each of the past two years. Delgado, who also led the country in offensive rebounding (5.0 per game), seemed to indicate as much when he announced his return to the Pirates, saying it was important “that I finish what I started,” while adding that “I am excited to make this a special year for Seton Hall.”
On paper, it has all the makings of one, with the current roster arguably the school’s most talented in a quarter century. This is a senior-dominated team with plenty of incentive — and long memories.
At a Glance
HEAD COACH: Kevin Willard
2016-17 RECORD (BIG EAST): 21–12 (10–8)
2016-17 POSTSEASON: NCAA: Lost to Arkansas 77–71 in the first round
G Madison Jones (5.8 ppg, 3.2 apg)
Delgado is a top candidate for Big East Player of the Year honors. The 6'10", 240-pound Delgado averaged 15.2 points and 13.1 rebounds. His breakout season featured 27 double-doubles, and he was the first player in league history with back-to-back 20-rebound games in league play.
He anchors a frontcourt that looks to be the school’s best in recent memory. Desi Rodriguez, Michael Nzei and Ismael Sanogo all return after playing significant roles last season. The versatile Rodriguez averaged 15.7 points and 5.2 rebounds while starting every game. He averaged 22.3 points in the Pirates’ regular-season-ending four-game winning streak that solidified an NCAA Tournament bid. Nzei started 14 games and averaged 4.3 points and 3.8 rebounds. Sanogo, a senior, proved his value as both a part-time starter and a key reserve. He grabbed 16 rebounds in a December win over Rutgers and had four points and eight boards in the Big East Tournament against Villanova.
Freshmen Sandro Mamukelashvili, a 6'10" lefty who was a key late signee, and 6'9", 270-pound Darnell Brodie will fight for whatever scraps of frontcourt minutes are left.
If there’s any nagging concern about the Pirates, it’s at point guard — though coach Kevin Willard did what he could to address that need by landing highly touted freshman Jordan Walker from nearby prep powerhouse The Patrick School. Walker is the pure point guard this roster lacked, but the plan initially is to let Carrington run the point with Walker serving as the backup. Now a senior, Carrington led the Pirates in scoring at 17.1 points per game on the way to second-team All-Big East honors. He has 1,315 career points — including a 41-point outburst against Creighton last year — and is better when he’s left to concentrate on scoring.
Myles Powell comes off a solid season in which he ranked fifth among Big East freshmen in scoring at 10.7 points per game. Freshman Myles Cale, a 6'4" shooting guard with a reputation as a big scorer, should be able to help in spots.
For all that this talented, senior-dominated roster has produced over the course of their careers — a Big East Tournament title, consecutive 20-win seasons and back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances — it has yet to provide the school with its first win in the NCAAs since 2004. With Delgado back to dominate on the glass and 90.5 percent of the scoring returning, the Pirates are pointing to big things in March. Assuming everyone stays healthy, the Sweet 16 is well within reach.