Friday, August 5, 2016

Seton Hall -- A First Look at the OOC Schedule

The Opponents Announced
The Pirates released their out of conference schedule early last week, and it appears that, despite the loss of Isaiah Whitehead, Coach Kevin Willard has upgraded the Hall's slate for the 2016-17 season. Borrowing a leaf from Anonymous Eagles' playbook, I have averaged Pomeroy's 2016 rankings for the slate announced late last week, along with Pomeroy's rankings for the out of conference slate they played last season. I also added the RPI rankings (averaged again, not using the algorithm for the SOS) as a point of comparison. As of last March, the NCAA's Selection Committee (for better or worse...) continues to use the RPI as a point of reference. On to the details (again borrowing Anonymous Eagles' format (Kenpom rank is followed by RPI).

2015-16 Season:
Low: Wichita State (8, 50)
High: Bradley (336, 305 out of 351)
Average of Seton Hall's 13 opponents (Pomeroy): 165.3
Standard Deviation of Rank (Pomeroy): 106.7
Median Opponent Ranking (Pomeroy): 193

Ironically, both their highest and lowest ranked opponents were out of the Missouri Valley Conference. Both games were wins.

2016-17 Season:
Low: California (29, 16)
High: Central Connecticut State (351, 351 out of 351)
Average of Seton Hall's 9 known opponents (Pomeroy): 151
Standard Deviation of Rank (Pomeroy): 123.3
Median Opponent Ranking (Pomeroy): 61

The numbers reflect last season's performance, and are -- at best -- only partially predictive of performance this season. Iowa is listed as the highest ranked opponent per Pomeroy, but looking at both Pomeroy and the RPI, this should be a split decision between Iowa, 23 in Pomeroy and 28 RPI and California, ranked #29 by Pomeroy, but #16 in the RPI. I went with California because I believe coach Cuonzo Martin's squad will finish with a better rank next season. The Golden Bears return 6'11" forward Ivan Rabb, a consensus lottery pick had he stayed in the NBA draft last June. Rabb is a legitimate National (and Pac-12) Player of the Year candidate and a consensus of Pac-12 observers put California in the Pac-12 upper division with a return to the NCAAs in the offering. The Hawkeyes lost four senior starters off the 22-11 squad that rose as high as #3 in the AP polls before fading to a third round elimination in the NCAAs. The good news for Iowa coach Fran McCaffery is that rising senior 6'6" wing Peter Jok, also an NBA draft candidate, returned for his senior season. Although McCaffery has a deep squad and expects a solid freshman class, Hawkeyes have a lot of gaps to fill and most likely will struggle to maintain a presence in the upper half of the Big Ten this season. A return to the NCAA Tournament is not a forgone conclusion.

While the highs and lows both moved lower, the average and mean indicate the schedule is actually better (statistically) than the 2015-16 slate which featured (per Pomeroy) one opponent with a rank greater than #300 and four opponents ranked in the 200s. Those five were somewhat offset by two top 50 opponents and three others ranked in the top 100. While the 2016-17 slate has two last question marks (the second the third round opponents in the AdvoCare Invitational), the slate so far has one opponent ranked below 300, three ranked in the 200s and most importantly, three in the top 50 (Pomeroy) and two others in the top 100.

The schedule with Pomeroy and RPI

11-NovFairleigh DickinsonHNEC270208
13-NovCentral Connecticut St.HNEC351351
17-NovIowaABig Ten2328
6-DecHawaiiABig West5686
12-DecSouth CarolinaNSEC6157
23-DecRutgersHBig Ten291294

Drawing Florida in the first round of the AdvoCare Invitational will provide the Pirates with the chance to earn a quality win, the type that draws the attention of the early polls and the Selection Committee. The Gators return four starters from the 2015-16 squad that won 21 games and went three rounds into the NIT. Angel Delgado will have his hands full with 6'11" 255 pound John Egbunu, a South Florida transfer who played 34 games for the Gators last season. Egbunu, an efficient scorer and rebounder, is foul prone. With a solid entering class and Virginia Tech transfer Jalen Hudson eligible, coach Mike White should have them ready to return to the elites of the SEC next season. Potential AdvoCare second round opponents include Quinnipiac and (most probably) a rematch with Gonzaga which, should it happen, be a story lede nationally. The Zags however, return only three contributors from their 28-8 squad, and will need much of the season to bring the balance of the squad up to speed. They may be ready for the NCAAs by March, but not for the Pirates in November. Opponents on the other side of the bracket include a rebuilding Stanford, along with conference powerhouses Iowa State and Miami. Should the Hall advance to the championship game, their RPI and Pomeroy ranks should be top 30. South Carolina graduated three senior starters from a 25-9 squad that played in the NIT last season, coach Frank Martin will count on rising seniors Duane Notice (who completed 40% of his three point attempts) and Sindarius Thornwell a talented 6'5" ball handling point to lead a young Gamecock squad back into the top half of the SEC (and the NCAAs).

Roster Moves
The published roster lists both of the Pirate transfers from last season, Jevon Thomas (Kansas State) and Madison Jones (Wake Forest). Both appear to be pass first point guards, though Thomas whose free throw rate from 2015, 67.2 (along with a turnover rate of 32.8), suggests he drives the lane as an alternative to setting up a teammate. The tendency is similar to the departed (and aspiring fire fighter) Derrick Gordon. Neither appear to be the kind of efficient (or even prolific) scorer like Isaiah Whitehead. Willard also has three freshmen, all guards, joining this season, giving the squad a guard-heavy flavor. As a ball handling scorer in the Whitehead mold, 6'3" 190 pound Eron Gordon out of Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, might be the closest match. Gordon, a younger brother of Hoosier great and Houston Rocket guard Eric Gordon, averaged 24 points per game as a junior and 19 as a senior. The other two guards, 6'2" Myles Powell averaged 25 points per game as a senior at South Kent Prep and 6'4" Manny Anderson played at the Hun School and Worchester Academy before a prep year at the Hotchkiss School.

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