Seton Hall 2016-17 Preview

Seton Hall is young and hungry this year. Photo courtesy of Seton Hall Athletics.
Seton Hall is young and hungry this year. Photo courtesy of Seton Hall Athletics.

The college basketball season is rapidly approaching, and the Seton Hall Pirates are hopeful they can continue to build on their recent success. Last season they won 13 of their first 14 games and finished third in the Big East standings with a 12-6 mark in conference play. After reaching the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year, they graduated four starters, and were picked to finish just seventh in the Big East Preseason Coaches Poll. Looking at their roster and experience, it is a squad with a lot more questions than answers ahead of their November 11th season opener.

Last year’s team finished 23-9, led by leading scorer Tabatha Richardson-Smith, a unanimous first-team Big East forward who averaged 18.9 points per game. Richardson-Smith is all over the Seton Hall record books, and with her graduation she leaves some big shoes to fill. Also gone is WNBA third-round selection Shakena Richardson, the first Seton Hall women’s player ever to be drafted. Starters Aleesha Smith and Tiffany Jones, who had some excellent performances in big games last year, move on as well. In Seton Hall’s only win over a top 25 team last year, Smith didn’t miss a shot from behind the arc, going 9-for-10 overall and 5-for-5 from three for 24 points.

Those departures mean shots will be available, and there are some players ready to step up and fill the offensive void. Six letter-winners are back on the squad, including starter Lubirdia Gordon, a┬átop 10 in the conference in both blocked shots and rebounding last season. Sophomores Jordan Molyneaux and LaTecia Smith will be asked for more in starting roles after contributing minutes off the bench last season. One very notable addition is guard JaQuan Jackson, a transfer from Louisiana Tech with a lot of promise. She spent two seasons with the Lady Techsters, averaging 9.0 points per game and making the All-Freshman team. Coach Tony Bozzella has said he believes she has just scratched the surface of her potential, and considering the offensive firepower he’s trying to replace, Seton Hall fans hope he’s right.

The losses and gains of the program for this season paint a picture of a team that will be searching for an identity early on. With home games against Boston College and Wake Forest among the first seven on the schedule, fans should get an idea in the first month of whether a third straight NCAA Tournament appearance is within reach for this year’s team.