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Close win, easy non-con slate set Seton Hall up for winning month

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

Fuquan Edwin had a team-high 18 points and a critical 3 to give Seton Hall the W. (USATSI)
Fuquan Edwin had a team-high 18 points and a critical 3 to give Seton Hall the W. (USATSI)

NEW YORK -- Go ahead and take a peek at what Seton Hall has waiting for itself over the course of the next month.

It's not an inspiring non-conference schedule at all. In fact, it's one of the more dreadful ones of any team from a major conference. But it could be what this team needs. I'll explain, but first, know that the Pirates are now 4-2, the two losses having come by a combined four points and needed two overtimes. (Granted, SHU has also ended four of its six games by three points or fewer.)

The fourth win came Saturday night in the consolation game of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. A 68-67 victory for the Pirates was ensured when SHU senior guard Fuquan Edwin -- probably the most reliable all-around player on this team -- hit a go-ahead 3 by in the closing seconds. That 3 ultimately allowed Seton Hall to withstand a couple of prayer 3-pointers from Va. Tech's Ben Emelogu.

In all, distance mattered for the Pirates, who scored 30 points off 3s and 20 off 2s.

"Definitely a game we should have won, could have won," Virginia Tech coach James Johnson said.

Johnson said the team "fell asleep" on the 3 that Edwin hit that won the game for SHU.

This is no longer a one-guard team anymore, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said afterward. He's right. The Pirates can utilize Edwin or Sterling Gibbs or Jaren Sina or Tom Maayan. Edwin playing well and hitting the 3 to give the Pirates their final lead was big for his confidence; a night before he blew it while playing against Oklahoma.

"It was killing me during the whole night. I really couldn't sleep because I knew I should have been smart in that situation," Edwin said. "I told coach I was sorry and he picked me up because he said it wasn't my fault. I need to hear things like that."

Edwin will often bring in the defense's best defender, and having the team become guard-oriented, but more confident than a year ago, it means a lot.

And it's coming at a good time because, again, that schedule. Woof. If Seton Hall's going to be an NCAA tourney team, it'll have to make big-time moves in the new 10-team Big East. That's a conversation for January. In the short-term, beating the lower-tier teams is paramount. The close games are worrisome for Pirates fans, no doubt, but a group like this might need the weaklings before it steps into play what I think is the most unpredictable major conference in the sport this season.

"Every time I get optimistic at this job something bad happens," Willard said, but right now some cautious optimism is OK. Seton Hall can't be a great team this year, but they can be an improving one that surprises people. Yes, some uncertainties remain; a foot injury could permanently hurt the front line and Maayan might be sent for other kind of front-line duty.

Winning close has a way of evening out. Seton Hall's been on the better side of it so far, and a few feeble foes in the queue allow for a winning streak to develop before January brings a different set of circumstances.

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