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Are the Seton Hall Pirates a viable National Championship contender?

At 16-5 and 8-1 in the Big East, Seton Hall is a popular pick to make a strong run in March.

On Saturday, Seton Hall fell to Xavier 74-62 in matinee action at Prudential Center. The game took place while ESPN’s College Gameday panel spoke about the Pirates being a possible number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Even with the loss, Seton Hal sits at 16-5 with an 8-1 record in Big East play. Many around the country see the Pirates as a threat to compete for a National Championship in March. As with any team competing for the title, there are reasons for their title candidacy. There are also reasons against their title candidacy. We will look at both ends of the spectrum when it comes to Seton Hall as a National Championship contender.

Let’s start with the obvious reason why they will compete for the title.

YES Title: Myles Powell Is Arguably The Best Player In The Nation

Although he scored just nine points against Xavier, Myles Powell continues to elevate his game in his senior season. He came into Saturday’s game second in the nation in scoring at 22 points per game. Powell has also become one of the best clutch shooters in the country, going back to last season’s breakout game against Kentucky at MSG. For The Hall, Powell is the straw that stirs the drink.

Every team that is in the conversation for the National Championship has that one player that can take a game over when necessary. Those teams have one player that picks up the play of his teammates and make other players better. Powell is that player for Seton Hall, and that is why they are in the position they are in. But while Myles Powell is a blessing for The Hall, he can also be a curse.

NO Title: Myles Powell Is Arguably The Best Player In The Nation

One of the many issues that have plagued Seton Hall is the lack of a second scoring option to Powell. Since last season, I have mentioned that the Pirates need to find one guy that can pick up the slack when Powell has an off game. Many thought it could be Myles Cale, others though it could be Jared Rhoden.

Unfortunately, that second option has not come yet. At this point in the season, it may never come for Seton Hall. Quincy McKnight is the only other player on the team averaging in double figures for the Pirates through the beginning of February. If Powell is the only capable of scoring for the Pirates, a run through the NCAA Tournament is unlikely. Someone must step up over the final month of the season to be Seton Hall’s undeniable number two option.

YES Title: Playing In The Big East Will Prepare The Pirates For The Postseason

The Big East, year in and year out, remains one of the top conferences in the country. The fact that Seton Hall won eight of their first nine games in conference play is impressive. Teams like Villanova, Butler, Xavier, and others bring their “A” games every single time out. DePaul, who has been a laughingstock around the country, is 13-9 and even gave the Pirates some trouble earlier this week.

Seton Hall playing in the Big East is something that will have them battle-tested for the NCAA Tournament. The regular season is tough, but the Big East Tournament becomes a war of attrition between teams that creates special moments. Madison Square Garden during that time is a stage that is similar, if not bigger, than March Madness. That week in March will have Seton Hall ready for anything come Selection Sunday.

NO Title: Defense Is An Issue For Seton Hall

Against Xavier, the Pirates allowed 74 points as the Musketeers shot 54 percent from the field. They have allowed 70 or more points to four of their last seven opponents. And while they are winning games, its something that must be looked at seriously. McKnight seems to be the one “stopper” on defense for Seton Hall at this moment. Romaro Gill has shown flashes as an inside presence, but it has not been consistent. Besides those two names, Seton Hall does not offer players that can turn on the defense on a dime.

Consider the following: Before Saturday’s games, Seton Hall ranked 68th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 64.8 points per game. There are four local teams above them in the rankings.
Saint Peter’s: 59th- 64.1 ppg
Yale: 34th- 52.6 ppg
Rutgers: 16th- 60.8 ppg
Fordham: 15th- 60.7 ppg

As mentioned before, the Big East is no joke at any level, so to have any deficiencies on the defensive end could be fatal down the stretch of the season. With Villanova (twice), Creighton (twice), and Marquette remaining on the schedule, Kevin Willard will need to tighten up things defensively, or it could turn into a problem later on.

According to Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology from Jan. 31st, Seton Hall is sitting as a number two seed in the East Region. While a number one seed is essentially a pipe dream, they still have time to solidify their standing and continuing being in the conversation as a National Championship contender. But if their remaining schedule is any indication, the work is not yet done for Seton Hall.

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Kahlil Thomas

Kahlil is the College Sports Editor for DoubleGSports.com as well as a columnist, hosting the Bump 'N Run column once per week. He also co-hosts a weekly basketball podcast, The Box Out, every Thursday evening with fellow DoubleGSports.com writer Jason Cordner.
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