On the heels of announcing a major Big 12-Big East matchup against the University of Texas at the Prudential Center on Dec. 9, Seton Hall basketball has some questions going into the 2021-2022 season.
The 2020-2021 season was unlike any other. The fact that the Pirates finished above .500 overall and in conference with everything that came with last season was an impressive coaching job from Kevin Willard. For many fans around the country, last season was a mirage and will be discounted entirely. That feeling will dissipate quickly this season, and all eyes will be on how Williard coaches a young Seton Hall team in the rough and tough Big East conference. Let's begin with the biggest question that must be answered quickly.
Who Will Replace Sandro Mamukelashvili's Scoring And Rebounding?
The next-man-up is a problem that Seton Hall hasn't had to face over the last few years. After every departure, whether it was Isiah Whitehead or Myles Powell, there seemed to be someone ready to step up immediately. This time, there are questions about who will pick up the slack for First Team All-Big East Player of the Year Sandro Mamukelashvili's 17 points and eight rebounds per game consistently. Senior Jared Rhoden seems to be the most likely candidate as he was second on the team in scoring (14.9 ppg) and rebounding (6.7 rpg). Rhoden will be asked to lead a team offensively that struggled shooting from three and rebounding the entire season.
Beyond Rhoden, it becomes murky. Bryce Aiken showed flashes last season but didn't play enough in his first year after transferring from Harvard. Graduate transfer Jamir Harris, who came over from American University, will immediately be thrust into an important role. He brings a 20 per game average and 44 percent from beyond the arc to a team that disappeared on the offensive side of the ball many times last season. There are other options, such as grad transfer Alexis Yetna and up and down guard Myles Cale. It will be scoring by committee as it will be the hot hand that leads the team.
Can The Pirates' Youth Be A Good Thing?
Throughout the Big East last season, many teams, such as Butler and Villanova, went through growing pains with younger players after major pieces left their programs. This year it is Seton Hall's turn as they will sport a roster with eight underclassmen, some of whom will be expected to deliver early.
Playing in the Big East will get many young players who need experience some floor time, but it will be up to Willard to quickly make sure that the young players gel with the program. The non-conference schedule, including the matchup mentioned earlier with Texas, will be used as teaching games for this team, especially after the year they and everyone else experienced last season. The 2021-2022 season could be the most exciting and challenging coaching job of Kevin Willard's career in South Orange.