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The Morning Dish – Monday, December 4, 2017

December 4, 2017 The Morning Dish No Comments

It was just a couple of years ago that Kevin Willard was thought to be on borrowed time in South Orange. Seton Hall had gotten better, but it seemed as if he was fighting a constantly uphill battle. That remained the case even after the Pirates broke through and won a thrilling Big East championship game over Villanova two years ago.

Now, it’s almost hard to believe that was ever the case. Seton Hall is in about as good a place as any Big East program not named Villanova right now, and Sunday keeps that going with the 2017-18 edition of them.

Seton Hall went to Louisville and beat a good Cardinals team 79-77 in the Billy Minardi Classic, getting a bank shot from Desi Rodriguez to fall with eight seconds left for the winning margin. The Pirates improve to 7-1 with wins over Indiana, Vanderbilt and Texas Tech in addition to the Cardinals, and Fairleigh Dickinson and Monmouth aren’t bad, either. The lone loss came to Atlantic 10 favorite Rhode Island.

In 2015-16, Seton Hall appeared to have a shot at an NCAA Tournament bid. When they reached the championship game in the Big East Tournament, it looked like they were in. Then they left nothing to chance by beating the Wildcats 69-67 before bowing out to Gonzaga in the first round.

Isaiah Whitehead left after that season, but they regrouped with Khadeen Carrington becoming a star, Angel Delgado owning the boards and Myles Powell being an impact freshmen in addition to Rodriguez continuing to get better. This year’s team has those stars leading the way, but with lots of depth and toughness. Nowhere was the toughness more evident thus far than on Sunday, when they won in a difficult place for visiting teams to win.

To be clear, I never thought Willard was in much danger. He had a long-term contract that was going to keep him there for a while, if he wanted to be there. But some in the business wondered if at some point he would try to leave there to find a situation with a better chance to win, to get out before they got him. Now, the prevailing thought is that if he leaves, it will be because he has merited a bigger job.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier. The Pirates are off all week, then host VCU on Saturday, and they still go to arch-rival Rutgers later in the month. Besides their non-conference showing, they could start Big East play with some momentum as they open with Creighton and St. John’s at home before they have to go on the road.

 

Side Dishes

Early Big Ten play continued on Sunday, with no real surprises. Purdue is the lone 2-0 team at the moment after beating Northwestern 74-69 in West Lafayette behind 26 points and nine rebounds from Isaac Haas. The game of the day would be Maryland‘s 92-91 overtime win at Illinois, with the teams combining for 33 points in the extra session.

About the only results that will grab attention as a surprise of sorts are UCF knocking off Alabama 65-62 in Tuscaloosa and Long Beach State beating Stanford for the first time ever by a score of 76-68. UCF held star freshman Collin Sexton to just seven points, all on free throws, and they out-rebounded the Crimson Tide 37-28 to overcome 20 turnovers. Long Beach State, meanwhile, shot 10-22 from long range to overcome a 37-24 rebounding deficit, in part from having four double-digit scorers.

By itself, Boise State rolling over Portland 77-54 isn’t especially noteworthy. But the reigning Mountain West Player of the Year, Chandler Hutchison, posted the first recorded triple-double in Boise State history with 23 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists to lead the way.

Tonight’s Menu

The slate is a bit light overall, but there are a few good games to keep an eye on and we have them right here.

  • Early Big Ten play continues with Michigan at Ohio State (6:30 p.m.), Wisconsin at Penn State (7 p.m.) and Iowa at Indiana (8 p.m.)
  • Baylor gets another test as Sam Houston State comes to town (8 p.m.)
  • The second meeting of two long-time rivals is on tap as Belmont heads across town to Lipscomb (8:15 p.m.)
  • A great rivalry game is on tap as Florida State visits Florida (9 p.m.)

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College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

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