Seton Hall Pirates
Photo by Vinnie Lucia

Seton Hall's season continues as they head to Colorado for NIT

Seton Hall had an unexpected and early exit from the Big East Tournament last Wednesday night. A goaltending call that would have sent the Pirates into a semifinal matchup with Xavier was reversed, leaving Pirate fans in shock. Seton Hall had a four-point lead with under a minute to go. Fortunately, this will not be the last memory for the 2022-2023 Seton Hall Pirates, as they have accepted a bid to the 2023 National Invitational Tournament.

Seton Hall is back in the NIT for the first time since 2012. Last year Seton Hall head coach Shaheen Holloway was leading Saint Peter's on a magical run to the Elite Eight as a fifteen seed in the NCAA Tournament. In his first year at Seton Hall, Holloway has the program record for most regular season and Big East Conference wins by a first-year coach. An NIT bid is another accomplishment the Pirates' first-year head coach can add to his resume.

The NIT provides national exposure for programs, as all games will be broadcast on ESPN networks. It also allows teams to gain postseason experience, which is extremely valuable for teams returning most of their players for the following season. The perfect example is fellow Big East member Xavier. Xavier won the NIT last year and is now a number three seed in this year's NCAA tournament. The opportunity for this Pirate group to gain more continuity playing together can help springboard the program for the future.

The Pirates will head to Colorado for a showdown with the number two seed Buffaloes Tuesday at 11 p.m. This will be a tough matchup for Seton Hall, who is down to a seven or eight-man rotation, with injuries to Kadary Richmond and Tray Jackson. Of the players in the current rotation, only two can not return to the Pirates next season, as KC Ndefo and Jamir Harris are in their final year of collegiate eligibility. The remaining healthy Pirates can make their case for more playing time next season.

Two Pirates have made the most of their opportunities due to injury. Femi Odukale and Dre Davis have been crucial for the Pirates' offense without Richmond and Jackson. If Seton Hall advances in this tournament, they will rely heavily on Davis and Odukale.\

The Pirates will need major contributions from Odukale and Davis, but they will go as far as senior Tyrese Samuel takes them. Samuel, Seton Hall's only true big man, has been dominant at times this season as he has made significant strides under Holloway. Samuel has a decision to make after this tournament. Will this be the last of Samuel in Pirate blue, or will he return for another season in South Orange?

Colorado will open up as five-point favorites Tuesday night against the Pirates. The altitude and short travel time to Colorado certainly will not favor Seton Hall. The Buffaloes are led by two players, forward Tristan Da Silva and guard KJ Simpson. Da Silva and Simpson are both averaging sixteen points a game. If the Pirates want to advance, they must stifle these two defensively.

If Seton Hall can survive the West Coast trip, a matchup down the road could loom with rival Rutgers. Rutgers is the number one seed on this side of the bracket, and the Pirates would first have to defeat Colorado and then the New Mexico/Utah Valley winner. Can the Pirates survive and advance to a matchup with rival Rutgers?

We will find out starting Tuesday night.