In advance of Villanova's trip to New Jersey to take on the Seton Hall Pirates on Wednesday night, I reached out to John Fanta, the Seton Hall beat that does fine work for our friends over at Big East Coast Bias. John doubles as a student at Seton Hall, so you know this team is near and dear to his heart.
VU Hoops: How is Gene Teague doing after that scary fall? And can you ever remember a Seton Hall team that was playing this shorthanded for long stretches?
John Fanta: Kevin Willard told the media on Saturday that Gene Teague could be out from "anywhere from a week to even a month," but that there still is a lot of uncertainty. However, Teague tweeted this afternoon that he received "Great news from the doctor."
Fuquan Edwin has not been the same player that he has been in the past years. Averaging 12 points per game, Edwin has taken a backseat to guard Sterling Gibbs and forward Patrik Auda, along with Teague when he’s healthy. It’s been a surreal revolving door for SHU. This program has had several injuries in the past few years and has had a cloud hanging over it, but this is really unbelievable. The Pirates have had some return, but Willard said it. The Pirates "still aren’t fully healthy" even with the guys they have back. It’s been a rough season, to say the least. Without consistency of a rotation, it’s been hard to figure out a team that has losses to Fairleigh Dickinson and Saint Peter’s yet went to Providence and won.
VU Hoops: About halfway into his fourth season, what is your evaluation of the job Kevin Willard has done at Seton Hall? Above or below your expectations?
John Fanta: Willard has had a tough go at it with injuries, there’s no doubt. But his attitude is special. He hasn’t been fazed by any injuries, and with the recruits coming in, it’s apparent that his program is on the rise.
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VU Hoops: Some Villanova fans were hoping we would recruit Jaren Sina - how has he looked in his freshman season?
John Fanta: Sina has been a great addition, considering he’s just a freshman. His shooting ability has been key throughout the season, but not only that. Sina has played solid basketball at both ends. His future is very, very bright, as he’s been right behind Sterling Gibbs in the rotation at poing guard. Sina’s biggest moment of this season thus far was a clutch triple in double overtime to give the Pirates a one-point lead with 1:56 on the clock. He had 13 in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic Consolation Game against Virginia Tech, with all 13 coming in the 1st half. The kid is ballsy, and it’s a good thing he’s a Pirate. Assuming that he continues to get better, this kid will be one of the standout guards in the conference by the time he reaches his third year.
VU Hoops: In the revamped Big East, can Seton Hall break the mold and become a program that finishes in the top half? What needs to change?
John Fanta: Isaiah Whitehead can be the game-changer for the program. It comes down to playing consistent basketball. What this team has had trouble with is finding the one game-in, game-out scorer. If Bryce Cotton of Providence is on this team, Seton Hall even becomes a different monster. As much as this team has scored, injuries have been horrific and it just comes down to finding a rhythm. Having that big-game player is what this team needs. Ball movement is something else that I think needs to be improved, but most of all, you can’t lose to Fairleigh Dickinson and Saint Peter’s. Pirates must beat the teams they’re SUPPOSED to beat.
VU Hoops: Are there any renovation projects (new arena, facilities, etc.) on the table that involve the basketball program?
John Fanta: The Prudential Center is a recruiting tool. We aren’t relocating anywhere and we love being in an NBA arena. There is a brand new athletics center and academic center going in on campus. Check it out here.
VU Hoops: Other than Isaiah Whitehead, which incoming recruit should have the biggest impact next year?
John Fanta: 6-9 forward Angel Delgado, who left Huntington Prep and went to the Patrick School in Elizabeth, N.J., intrigues me the most. He is #45 on ESPN’s recruiting list and is very dynamic. He can score by not only backing down, but also facing up. He can even take it from the top of the key and has the ball-handing skills to dribble inside.
VU Hoops: Prediction for Wednesday night's game?
John Fanta: Gibbs is very effective at taking it to the rim for Seton Hall, but unless the Pirates have Gene Teague down low (which is very doubtful), the Pirates don’t have an enforcer to keep Pinkston from making noise near the basket. The Hall’s ball movement can be shaky, and the Pirates’ D just isn’t the same in the post. Brian Oliver has a hot stroke, but I just don’t know where the Pirates really can beat Nova. I don’t see the Wildcats getting exposed, but watch Gibbs vs. Arcidiacono. Ryan will face a defensive test, as Gibbs loves to initiate contact.
I have Nova rolling 84-71, but it won’t really be that close.
Thank you John for dropping some Pirate knowledge on us!