By Jeff Goodman
NEW YORK - Seton Hall will have to sweat this one out on Sunday.
The Pirates missed out on a golden opportunity to punch their NCAA ticket with a 61-55 loss to Louisville Wednesday night in the Big East tournament.
"Nobody expected us have as much success as we had," Seton Hall senior big man Herb Pope said following the loss. "I think we should be in the NCAA tournament, but it's not up to me."
The game wasn't just important for Pope and fellow senior Jordan Theodore and their chances to get into the Big Dance, but it also could be important for Kevin Willard. Seton Hall didn't get to the NCAA tournament last season and, after losing Pope and Theodore after this season, it would be a stretch to think the Pirates can get there a year from now.
Which means Willard could go into his fourth season without an NCAA tournament berth on his resume.
But the flip side is that Willard and the Pirates get in this season -- and it certainly gives him more security going forward.
Willard has done an impressive job getting this team in position to be considered for an at-large berth. He's been integral in the maturity of Pope -- and has a group loaded with five freshmen, two sophomores and two guys sitting out via transfer. Seton Hall has won 20 games -- which bodes well since 147 of 152 Big East teams with 20-plus victories have earned a spot in the field.
The Pirates have wins against Georgetown, UConn and West Virginia. They also have losses to DePaul, Rutgers and Villanova.
"It's really tough for me and Herb to have to leave it up to the selection committee on Sunday," Theodore said. "We wanted to go out there and prove a point, and we came up short tonight, so it's a tough one."
Now Seton Hall becomes scoreboard watchers, checking to see how Miami and N.C. State fare in the ACC, whether Northwestern can do anything of note in the Big Ten tourney -- and what happens out west in the Pac-12 with the likes of Cal and Washington.
"We'll just go to church and hope and pray," Pope said.