Seton Hall, seeking bounce-back season, opens vs. Fairleigh Dickinson

NCAA Men's Basketball

Seton Hall, striving for a return to the NCAA Tournament in 2022, kicks off its season Wednesday night in Newark, N.J., against visiting Fairleigh Dickinson.

The Pirates faded down the stretch in 2020-21, finished 14-13 with a loss in the semifinals of the Big East tournament. Their absence from March Madness snapped a streak of four straight tournament bids.

Jared Rhoden is the Pirates’ leading returning scorer (14.9 points per game). He earned preseason all-Big East first-team honors. However, Rhoden injured his right ankle during practice Nov. 1 and is in a walking boot, so Seton Hall is evaluating him game to game.

During Big East media day, Rhoden declared that the Pirates would finish in the top two in the league, much higher than their fifth-place pick in the preseason poll.

“I feel like the chemistry and the vibe around this team is kind of exciting,” Rhoden said. “When you hang out with your teammates outside the court and it’s a natural bond, it’s not forced, is when you know that it’s going to be a special year.”

Rhoden cited Seton Hall’s three key additions from the transfer portal: forward Alexis Yetna (South Florida), guard Jamir Harris (American) and guard Kadary Richmond (Syracuse). A former four-star prospect, Richmond has tons of promise but is transitioning from Syracuse’s zone defense to man-to-man.

“It’s a big adjustment,” coach Kevin Willard told reporters after an exhibition win over Misericordia. “Rotations are different, transition defense is different, where you are on the court is different.”

Fairleigh Dickinson embarks on 2021-22 working on a rebuild. The Knights, whose most recent conference championship and NCAA Tournament berth came in 2019, finished last season 9-15. They were tabbed ninth out of 10 teams in the Northeast Conference preseason coaches’ poll.

The North Jersey program, which won’t have to travel far for Wednesday’s game, brings back two starters: guard Brandon Rush (14.3 ppg, 4.0 rebounds pg) and power forward Pier-Olivier Racine (6.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg).

The Knights warmed up with an 86-61 exhibition victory over Rutgers-Newark.

“I love the energy that the freshmen brought and the experience that our upperclassmen showed,” coach Greg Herenda said. “Now it’s onto nonconference play, and we are excited that it’s finally here.”

–Field Level Media

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