Every single day presents itself like a blank page, with an opportunity to do some great thing or achieve some heralded feat that will make that given day live on. Today, that is true more than ever for Seton Hall men’s basketball fans, as March 15, 2018 is already destined to live on. The question is, whether it will live on in fame or infamy.
If the Pirates win, and the day is remembered as the one Seton Hall and its seniors finally got over the hump, there is a decent shot that it could be one of many days that are looked back upon fondly in this March. Of course, the road to an unlikely Cinderella run begins with one win, something this group of players are yet to do in the NCAA Tournament.
With that in mind, here are four reasons why Seton Hall can make a run to the Elite Eight, and give themselves a shot at a Final Four appearance.
N.C. State is the most favorable draw this group has had
Truth be told, there is nothing ideal about being in an 8-v-9 game, and if the Pirates themselves start to think this way, they will be flying home before the weekend. All signs from practice, though, point to this team being locked in, with Khadeen Carrington and Myles Powell fully aware of the press offense that N.C. State will employ.
And while the Wolfpack are talented, they are still a developing team under first year head coach Kevin Keatts. It is important and interesting to note that the Wolfpack were destined to be on the 10-line, but due to too many conflicting Big East schools with 1, 8 and 9-seed grades, Butler was forced off the 9-line, and N.C. State took its place. This, if nothing else, means Seton Hall has as good a shot as they have had with this group to grab that elusive first round win.
Kansas is beatable
The Jayhawks are immensely talented, but also, immensely flawed. Kansas is ranked ninth in the KenPom rating, and the team has slip ups to tournament outsiders Baylor and Oklahoma State, with Kansas losing to the latter of those two twice. Many are pointing to a home advantage for the Jayhawks – a team that historically has been unbeatable in friendly confines – as Wichita is only a two-hour drive from their campus in Lawrence. However, there have been considerable chinks in the home armor this season, with three losses in Allen Fieldhouse after only 10 losses in 14 seasons combined.
The Jayhawks don’t have an easy first round game either. That’s right, there 1-v-16 game is by no means the customary cakewalk, as according to FiveThirtyEight.com, Penn and Kansas are as evenly matched as a 1 and 16-seed have been in tournament history. By no means is this a guarantee that Penn will pull off the upset of all upsets, but advanced metrics show that this game might be the perfect storm of a significantly under-seeded Quaker team and a slightly over-seeded Jayhawks team. Hey, magic will be needed in this pursuit.
The Pirates next destination after Wichita would be Omaha
If Seton Hall manage to make it to the second week, fans who are in it for the long haul and had to bend over backwards to make it to Wichita will sing hallelujah at the chance to potentially drive up the regional final destination, Omaha.
And the Pirates would be pretty pleased with the reality too, considering their familiarity with the host venue, the CenturyLink Center, which is home of the Big East’s Creighton Bluejays. For opposition, the Midwest regional semifinal and final would present a jarring new setting that would need to be acclimated to in a short few days. Conversely, for the Pirates, it would be a place they travel to and play in every single year.
Potential Sweet Sixteen Opponents Clemson and Auburn are vulnerable
If the Pirates makes it to Omaha, put money down they will be greeted by the Tigers, as their opponent will be either 4th-seeded Auburn or 5th-seeded Clemson, for a shot at the regional final. Auburn were projected as a 1-seed in early February; however, the Tigers faded down the stretch, losing to South Carolina, Florida and Arkansas in the final two weeks of the season, before crashing out of the SEC Tournament in their first game against Alabama.
Clemson are also ripe for the taking, as the Tigers will be without their second leading scorer in Donte Grantham, as the senior tore his ACL in the homestretch of the season. Without the 6-foot, 8-inch forward, Seton Hall could count on not just being able to compete with Clemson in the paint, but winning the low-post battle, which could lead to a date with a college basketball blueblood for a chance at the Final Four.
James Justice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JamesJusticeIII.