Last Conference Game Crucial for Pirates After Rutgers Spoils Senior Night

Seton Hall ROTC cadets rappel into the Prudential Center with the American flag at the Seton Hall-Rutgers game Saturday. The Pirates lost 77-72 in overtime. (Photo: Milan Stanic)

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – With all the talk of the NCAA Tournament for Seton Hall, the Pirates now have work to do to solidify a spot in March Madness.

Going into the Rutgers game, the Pirates had no “bad losses” according to ESPN’s Bubble Watch. With “good wins” over West Virginia, Connecticut and Georgetown, the Pirates controlled their own destiny into the Big Dance.

“It hurts us. Losing at home is tough,” Willard said. “We still have another conference game. I don’t think we can go lower than 10th or 9th in the conference.”

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One play has often determined the outcome of the game for the Seton Hall Pirates this season. In the loss at the University of South Florida on Jan. 13, it was a missed free throw by senior Jordan Theodore. When the Pirates lost to Louisville on Jan. 28, missed layups by Fuquan Edwin decided the outcome of the game.

But Saturday’s 77-72 overtime loss to Rutgers, as well as the Pirates’ “lock” status in the NCAA Tournament, was determined by a foul call – something that as a player and a coach, you never want to see decide a game.

Veteran referee John Gaffney called an illegal screen on Herb Pope with 44 seconds left and the score tied at 72. That was Pope’s fifth foul, disqualifying him from the game and giving Rutgers the ball with a chance to take the lead in the final minute.

The Scarlet Knights nailed a 3-pointer on their possession to take a 75-72 lead. Jordan Theodore had a chance to tie the game with six seconds left, but his left-wing three rattled out.

Pope was not available for comment after the game, but head coach Kevin Willard was not pleased with the call that could potentially hurt Seton Hall come Selection Sunday on March 14.

“It’s a bad call,” Willard said. “That’s all I’ll say about it. It’s a bad call.”

The Hall currently sits in the No. 8 position in the Big East standings with a 19-10 record, 8-9 in Big East play. With the No. 8 seed in the Big East Tournament, the Pirates would have a first round bye and would face the winner of the No. 9/No. 16 game, which currently features West Virginia and DePaul.

That’s if the season ended today.

If the season ended today, the Pirates also would not have to worry about the NCAA Tournament, because every major bracketologist has the Pirates in March Madness despite the loss to Rutgers.

Unfortunately for Seton Hall, the season doesn’t end today; instead it ends after Saturday’s schedule of games.

The Pirates will be on the road to finish their season at DePaul. The Pirates are 13-3 at home this season, and 4-6 on the road.

“I’d rather be at home if I have to finish out the season and win a game,” Willard said. “I’d still rather have a home game.”

Seton Hall has a week off before ending their season on the road at DePaul. Seton Hall beat the Blue Demons on Jan. 10 at Prudential Center.

The Pirates are 2-1 in games following a week off. Both wins came in their nonconference schedule against Auburn and Mercer, while the loss was against Notre Dame. All three games were played at home.

“It’s probably not good,” Willard said about the time between games. “(I’ve) got to learn (what) to do with these off weeks in this league. We didn’t do a good job with it last time. It’s going to be a tough six days until we play again.”

Check The Alternative Press on Friday night for a full preview of Seton Hall’s matchup with DePaul.

Timothy LeCras participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts designed to give students real-world experience.

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