Questions should arise about Seton Hall come March

Seton Hall features four seniors in Angel Delgado, Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez and Ismael Sanogo. They are known as the group that established Kevin Willard’s program by participating in the last two NCAA Tournaments.

But what’s missing on their resume is an NCAA Tournament win. They haven’t won one in two years as they have been one and out. This is their last chance to get one this year for good, so there’s a sense of urgency when the season started. The goal for them is to get to the Sweet 16 and perhaps get to the Elite Eight.

From watching the Pirates so far in conference play, one has to wonder if this group is good enough to win a postseason game. They have been underwhelming so far, and Saturday’s 73-64 loss to the No. 11 Xavier Musketeers at the Prudential Center should raise questions about their postseason mettle.

This was a game the Pirates had to win against a team that could contend for the Elite Eight this season. They needed to respond after losing to Marquette and Creighton on the road that had them losing two of three. Instead, they fell apart in the second half by being outscored 43-29 by Xavier after taking a 35-30 lead in a spirited first half effort. To blow a 51-47 lead with 10 minutes to go is deflating when it comes to fans’ enthusiasm towards Seton Hall.

There’s no defense for them being outworked and outclassed against Xavier. The Musketeers came ready to play. They knew what was at stake, so Seton Hall had to match their intensity. Instead, the Pirates had no idea how to handle Xavier’s second-half run.

It was bad enough Seton Hall couldn’t find a player who could will them the way JP Macura did for Xavier by scoring 18 of his 27 points in the second half, including hitting three 3-pointers in that half. What was troubling was their best defensive players could not get the loose balls and loose rebounds, and they couldn’t wear Xavier’s best players down.

Xavier knocked down shots with no consequences. No hard fouls. No defense. Nothing.

Where was the swagger? Xavier played like they knew they were going to win while Seton Hall was bracing for the worst. It’s surprising a senior-laden team would approach this game as if they were underclassmen. Delgado, Carrington and Rodriguez have played enough games to know how to respond when another team makes a run.

The bottom line was Seton Hall’s best players failed the team. This isn’t the first time this has happened. This has happened often come tournament time. It’s no wonder why Seton Hall fans are wondering if their team is going to win a tournament game this season.

Make no mistake. Getting to the NCAA Tournament is not enough anymore for Seton Hall. It’s about finally winning postseason games that could continue to provide momentum for this program trying to be relevant in the NCAAs and in this highly competitive sports market. They haven’t won a tournament game since 2004, so it’s past time to do something.

Games like Saturday don’t help their cause. One has to wonder if high expectations have become a burden for this senior class. It was one thing to play loose with no expectations the last couple of seasons. Seton Hall fans want more than just a token tournament appearance.

Seton Hall is going to have to learn how to be resilient. They are a front-running team, which when things go well, everything’s fine, but when everything goes awry like the second half against Xavier, they tend to fold. It’s been too common by this group.

It remains to be seen if they can do it. Saturday only raises more questions than answers about their tournament chances, which is why this Xavier loss was disheartening.

It will be stunning if the Hall is not in the tournament. They should be good enough to get there.

Odds are Seton Hall is on pace to be one-and-out for the third straight year rather than play in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. While players expect to go far, they have to prove to themselves and critics they can get it done. It’s up to Seton Hall to change the narrative and perception.

Time is ticking for their seniors.

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