College basketball: Seton Hall looks to buck trend among experienced teams in NCAA Tournament
There was something special about Seton Hall's 2014 recruiting class. The six-man class of Khadeen Carrington, Ismael Sanogo, Desi Rodriguez, Angel Delgado, Michael Nzei and Isaiah Whitehead was highly regarded, built around a core of players who attended high school in greater New York City and New Jersey.
Whitehead left after his sophomore year for the NBA and the five student-athletes from that class who remain are on pace to usher in the best three-year stretch for the program in the last 25 years.
Under former Seton Hall coach P.J. Carlesimo, the Pirates won 76 games between the 1990-91 and 1992-93 seasons, which included three NCAA Tournament appearances.
Ranked No. 21 in the latest AP poll, Seton Hall (13-2) is on pace to go to its third consecutive NCAA Tournament after qualifying for the Big Dance in just three seasons between the end of Carlesimo's tenure in 1994 and the start of the 2014 season.
In each season since 2014, the Pirates' minutes continuity – a stat calculated by the advanced college basketball metrics website kenpom.com – has improved. The metric is calculated by taking each player on a team's current roster, using the minimum percentage of the team's total minutes that he played when comparing last season and the current season, and adding the total percentages for each player.
Seton Hall ranks ninth nationally in minutes continuity (75.9 percent) this season, thanks to its senior core of Rodriguez, Delgado, Carrington and Sanogo, as well as the signifcant roles of sophomore Myles Powell (who has played in 74.2 percent of the team's minutes this season) and redshirt junior Michael Nzei (46.8%). Kenpom.com has found that teams with more continuity typically perform better than teams with less continuity, but the teams with the most continuity nationally haven't fared as well in the postseason in recent seasons as one might expect.
In the last five seasons, the top 10 teams each season in minutes continuity have averaged 21.68 wins and 12 losses, combining for 16 out of a possible 50 NCAA Tournament bids. Those 16 teams exited the tournament once in the First Four, 10 times in the first round and three times in the second round. Wisconsin made the Sweet 16 last year when the Badgers had the most continuity of any team in the country (86.6 percent) and Kansas made the Elite Eight in 2016 when the Jayhawks were No. 10 nationally in minutes continuity.
It's worth noting that many of the teams examined play in conferences outside the power structure, meaning there are typically fewer available bids to the NCAA Tournament for teams in their position. But the teams with the most returning experience from a minutes standpoint have only made it to the second weekend of the tournament twice in the last five years.
Seton Hall could add its name to that list this season. Other candidates are USC (No. 4 in minutes continuity) and Wichita State (No. 7).
The Pirates are in the midst of a 14-year winless drought in the NCAA Tournament, last claiming a tournament victory in 2004. They could have the balance and experience to make it past the first round in this year's NCAA Tournament.
Seton Hall has four players who average double figures in points – Rodriguez (18.6 ppg), Powell (14.7 ppg), Carrington (14.1 ppg) and Delgado (13.7 ppg). Delgado is also a double-double machine with 11 double-doubles in his first 15 games this season. As of Jan. 5, he ranks in the top five nationally in offensive rebounding percentage.
Here is a look at the top 10 teams in minutes continuity from each of the past five seasons, courtesy of kenpom.com.
|Year||School||Minutes Continuity Rank||Continuity Percentage||Record||NCAA Tournament Exit|
|2017||Saint Mary's||2||83.4%||29-5||Second round|
|2017||North Dakota||3||82.0%||22-10||First round|
|2015||St. Francis (PA)||4||85.4%||16-16||N/A|
|2014||North Dakota State||3||84.9%||26-7||Second round|
|2013||South Dakota State||7||79.4%||25-10||First round|