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UConn men’s basketball 2022-23 opponent preview: Seton Hall

New coach, eight new players. What will that equal for Seton Hall?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round-TCU vs Seton Hall Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Fast Facts

Head Coach: Shaheen Holloway (first season as head coach)

2021-22 Record: 21-11 (11-8 in Big East)

2021-22 Conference finish: Fifth

Final 2021-22 Ranking: No. 52

2022-23 Conference Coaches Poll Ranking: Seventh

2022-23 KenPom Rating: No. 48

2021-22 in review

For the fifth time in six seasons, the Pirates earned an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament. What they did as an 8-seed though, was less inspiring; falling to 9-seed TCU in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Seton Hall was sound defensively (No. 31 in KenPom defensive efficiency) but struggled with the consistent offensive output needed to put away the better teams.

The Pirates were ultimately done in last year by the concussion suffered by the floor general Bryce Aiken. They were ranked as high as No. 15 in the AP on Dec. 27, but Aiken never played again after taking a knock vs. Marquette on Jan. 15. The Pirates were good after, but they had the makings of a second-weekend team with Aiken at the helm.

The offseason brought a slew of changes to South Orange; after 12 seasons at the helm, Willard headed south on I-95 to Maryland, while seniors Jared Rhoden, Bryce Aiken, and Myles Cale all moved on.

2022-23 preview

Fortunately for Seton Hall, the darling of the 2022 NCAA tournament just so happened to be an alumnus, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Shaheen Holloway, fresh off a miraculous run to the Elite Eight with perennial MAAC doormat Saint Peter’s, is now back with his alma mater.

Holloway brings the underdog mentality and junkyard dog toughness he honed at Saint Peter's to a Pirates roster that already has that in spades. It all starts with 6-foot-6 junior Kadary Richmond, a preseason All-Big East second-teamer who Husky fans may remember poured in an absurd 27 points in 27 minutes in their first contest last year. He’s joined by 6-foot-10 senior Tyrese Samuel and 6-foot-9 super senior Alexis Yetna, the latter of which battled injuries all last year. Guard Jamir Harris is a microwave scorer and Tray Jackson stretches the floor.

Seton Hall added eight new scholarship players to compensate for the loss of Rhoden, Aiken, and Cale. There are lots of intriguing pieces, including 6foot-2 senior Al-Amir Dawes, from Clemson, who averaged 11 points per game and shot 40 percent from 3-point range last year. Then there’s KC Ndefo, the 6-foot-7 switchy defensive anchor of the Peacocks last year who won the Lefty Driesell National Defensive Player of the Year award last season.

6-foot-6 combo guard Femi Odukale is a double-digit scorer out of Pitt and adds to the roster’s versatility. Freshman Tae Davis, the 148th-ranked recruit per 247Sports, and brother to junior forward and Louisville transfer Dre Davis, will be impact players as well.

Bottom line

It’s rare a team has two players that could win Big East defensive player of the year, but Ndefo and Richmond both could, and it wouldn’t surprise a soul. Positions one through five, the Pirates have the roster makeup to immediately implement Holloway’s defensive schemes. That’s scary, considering Holloway had little old Saint Peter’s ranked 25th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency (KenPom). Imagine what he can do with Big East-caliber defenders.

Look for Seton Hall’s size, length, and switchability to apply disruptive ball pressure and clog up passing lanes. And if you watched any of Saint Peter’s in March you know Holloway will have his team rebounding at an elite level. Offensively, their ceiling depends on Richmond avoiding disappearing acts; he scored four points or fewer on nine occasions last year. Dawes is a capable second scorer though, as is Samuel.

If Richmond takes the next step, there are capable pieces around Holloway to make coaches look silly picking the Pirates at No. 7 in the Big East preseason poll. After all, March is littered with stories of hard-nosed coaches riding a superstar and tough-as-nails defense to a title...