(CBSNewYork)- With six games left before the Big East Tournament, the Seton Hall Pirates appear to be on their way to another NCAA Tournament bid.
Sitting squarely atop the Big East standings with a 10-2 conference record (18-6 overall), the Pirates should make their fifth straight appearance in the Big Dance, barring some kind of disaster down the stretch. While making the tournament has become commonplace for the program in recent years under head coach Kevin Willard, their performances once in the bracket have left something to be desired.
The Pirates have been bounced before the end of the first weekend in each of the previous four trips under Willard. But this year’s team has a bit of a different feel to it. Led by do-everything guard Myles Powell and rim-protecting presence Romaro Gill, the Pirates are currently ranked 10th in the AP Top 25, their highest ranking since 2000-01 under Tommy Amaker.
Those good vibes, and the experience of this team (Powell, Gill and fellow senior Quincy McKnight) have fans of the program hoping for something bigger come March this year. CBS Sports Network college basketball insider Jon Rothstein believes they have a chance to do it.
“For Seton Hall, right now, and their fans, there is one goal. To party like it’s 1989,” said Rothstein, referencing the 88-89 team that went to the Final Four under the direction of P.J. Carleisimo. “Look at what Seton Hall has been able to do this year. They have proven they can not only beat great teams, but they can beat great teams on the road, as they showed against Butler and Villanova. And they also can beat good teams without having their full deck of cards. They beat Maryland without Myles Powell and Sandro Mamukelashvili.”
While the team was successful against the Terps without Powell, he is the driving force on the team. The 6’2″ senior from Trenton is leading the team in scoring (21.4 PPG), second in steals (1.3 PG), third in assists (2.3 PG) and fourth in rebounds (4.6 PG). Adding those other elements to his game has led Rothstein to call him the best player in the country, and his ability to help those around him improve has impressed the most.
“The way he has diversified it. He can set people up right now, he is a lot better at initiating offense. He moves without the ball at an elite level,” said Rothstein. “And he’s had a major hand in other players getting better. Romaro Gill is one of the most improved players in the country and a big reason for that is Myles Powell.”
Gill went from averaging just 2.3 points per game last season to 7.5 per game this year, making a ludicrous 62 percent of his shots. While his presence has been felt more on the defensive end (3.5 BPG, third in NCAA), the offensive game has opened up due to the threat Powell poses to opponents coming off of screens.
Holding a two-game advantage in the Big East standings, Seton Hall is looking to lock up its fourth regular-season conference championship in its history. But there are still several weeks before they get there. First up, a matchup with Providence on the road looms on Saturday. Tip is set for 8 p.m. EST on CBS Sports Network.