Last March was a fairytale, and this season will likely be a dream realized.
After Shaheen Holloway made historical past by guiding No. 15-seed Saint Peter’s to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, he landed the head-coaching position at his alma mater, Seton Hall, the job he all the time needed.
“This is too important to me,” the 46-year-old Queens native informed The Post after his introductory press convention. “This is home. This is something I dreamed about. I can’t afford to mess it up. I won’t mess it up. I’m going to work, work and work.”
Now comes the laborious half: Building off Kevin Willard’s success — the previous coach led the Pirates to 5 of the final six NCAA Tournaments earlier than leaving for Maryland following final season — and taking it to the subsequent stage.
There could also be absurd expectations due to what Holloway achieved for the tiny MAAC college, significantly when making an allowance for the Pirates lost prime scorers Jared Rhoden, Myles Cale and Bryce Aiken from their 2022 NCAA Tournament crew, together with defensive anchor Ike Obiagu. The offseason was plagued by accidents, and ahead Alexis Yenta, one of many key returnees, is out indefinitely with a knee damage.
Holloway, a star level guard for Seton Hall, and his workers have been busy on the switch market. They landed 4 potential difference-makers: guards Al-Amir Dawes (Clemson) and Femi Odukale (Pittsburgh), wing Dre Davis (Louisville) and ahead KC Ndefo, Holloway’s star at Saint Peter’s. They will be a part of an unproven core that features returnees Jamir Harris, Kadary Richmond, Tyrese Samuel and Tray Jackson. Seton Hall was picked to complete seventh within the Big East, however expectations don’t trouble Holloway. Nobody anticipated a lot out of Saint Peter’s, both.
“When you get the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament and make the run that we made into the Elite Eight, to me, I’m hungry now,” Holloway stated at Big East media day. “Now I would like the Final Four, I would like the nationwide championship. That’s the objective. The objective is to maintain constructing.
“I’m in the best conference with the best coaches in the country, so I gotta step my game up.”
Why Seton Hall will make the NCAA Tournament
The Pirates grow to be an elite defensive crew, Holloway maximizes the potential in Richmond and Samuel, and so they discover a technique to decide up a number of massive wins throughout their daunting non-conference schedule. High-upside wing Tae Davis is among the finest freshmen within the Big East, and Holloway does extra with much less, as was the case at Saint Peter’s.
Why Seton Hall will miss the NCAA Tournament
Too a lot is new, from the coach to the roster, which incorporates simply 5 returning gamers. The Pirates are offensively challenged, after shedding its prime three scorers from final year, and start the season slowly attributable to myriad offseason accidents, which carried over into the preseason and restricted apply time.
3 Key Questions
Is there sufficient offense?
Last year’s version wasn’t precisely an explosive group at the offensive finish, and the highest weapons moved on. There isn’t any apparent No. 1 scorer. Ndefo, the highest newcomer, is finest identified for his protection. Fellow transfers Davis, Dawes and Odukale have by no means been go-to scorers. They profile higher as complimentary choices. Richmond and Samuel have but to common in double-figures.
How will Holloway alter to the Big East?
Yes, he has coached within the Big East earlier than as an assistant — 9 years at Seton Hall below Willard — and Holloway proved himself in March, however that is nonetheless totally different. There will likely be a studying curve, changes that should be made. Coaching at the high-major stage is new to Holloway, and he gained’t sneak up on anybody.
Is Tyrese Samuel able to emerge?
The 6-foot-10 Canadian actually has no selection however to step to the forefront at this level. Yetna’s knee damage will hold him out at the beginning of the season, creating an excellent greater want for Samuel to comprehend the potential he arrived with as a top-100 recruit a number of years in the past. The means has all the time been there — Samuel can rating within the put up and shoot from the perimeter — however Seton Hall has to get constant manufacturing out of the senior now.
X-Factor: Kadary Richmond
He’s Seton Hall’s most gifted participant, a 6-6 level guard who has battled consistency points all through his faculty career. But when Richmond is true, he’s a dynamic expertise able to taking on a sport. Bringing it on a game-by-game foundation, nevertheless, is the challenge for the Brooklyn native.
Games to Watch
At Kansas (Dec. 1)
A visit to Allen Fieldhouse to face the defending nationwide champions is an early alternative for Seton Hall to make a press release within the annual Big East-Big 12 Battle. Kansas lost so much off its 2021-22 crew, however was ranked fifth within the preseason, returns star wing Jalen Wilson and added difference-making switch guard Kevin McCullar Jr. from Texas Tech.
Vs. St. John’s (Dec. 31)
Considering this rivalry is sandwiched between highway video games towards Xavier, Marquette and Creighton, it is going to be much more essential for the Pirates to care for dwelling court docket on New Year’s Eve. Seton Hall has gained the final seven video games towards the Johnnies in Newark.
Vs. Villanova (Feb. 28)
This has develop into top-of-the-line rivalries within the Big East, and the video games at the Prudential Center are ceaselessly tense nail-biters. The matchup is nearly all the time the spotlight of the Pirates’ dwelling slate, drawing giant crowds that fill the constructing. But the tenor of these conferences will likely be very totally different now that the coaches have modified, Holloway for Seton Hall and Kyle Neptune for Villanova.
Anonymous Coach’s Take
“The biggest thing is consistency. Kadary had games like against UConn last year where he was the best player on the court and there were others games they were probably better off without him. Tray Jackson had games he would go for 20 and he would have games where he would go for two points. Getting those guys to be consistent as juniors will be huge. Al-Amir Dawes was a starter on an NCAA Tournament team at Clemson, Femi will be a solid piece for them and KC has postseason experience. [Holloway] brought in transfers, but he brought in older transfers, which I think will help them out. They’ll be able to understand what he’s looking for better.”
18-15, seventh place in Big East, NIT
Between the offseason accidents and the uncertainty over a lot of the roster, this crew has too many unanswered questions. A difficult non-conference schedule will add to the diploma of problem for Holloway in his first season. A late-season run gained’t be sufficient to achieve the NCAA Tournament.