An upset of the reigning national champions helped put Seton Hall in the AP Top 25 for the first time in more than a decade.
The Pirates’ next opponent doesn’t figure to provide the same level of competition.
Taking the floor with a national ranking for the first time since the 2000-01 season, No. 24 Seton Hall seeks its 12th win in 13 games Tuesday night when it hosts perennial Big East doormat DePaul.
The Pirates (14-2, 3-1) haven’t posted a winning record in conference play or reached the NCAA tournament since 2005-06, but appear well on their way to ending both of those droughts. Since opening Big East play with a 75-49 loss at No. 1 Syracuse on Dec. 28, Seton Hall has won three straight - highlighted by last Tuesday’s 75-63 triumph over then-No. 8 Connecticut, the defending national champion.
“I’m sure we’ll get some national attention, because this was a great win against a great program,” coach Kevin Willard said.
The Pirates certainly did, entering the Top 25 for the first time since Jan. 30, 2001. They’ve won all nine of their home games by an average of 13.7 points.
“Ever since we got blown out by Syracuse, they punched us square in the mouth and we didn’t like it,” senior forward Herb Pope said. “I watched what they did to us over and over for like 48 hours straight and it left a bad taste in my mouth. So I think we all decided that we had to be tough at home. We had to be the ones to terrorize the other teams when they play here, make them afraid to come here.”
The Blue Demons (10-5, 1-2) certainly have reason for trepidation. DePaul is 0-4 on the road against Seton Hall, and has dropped seven of nine all-time meetings in the series, including the last four. The Pirates won last season’s matchup 78-67 in Rosemont, Ill., as Pope scored 15 points and shot 6 of 8.
Pope had his ninth double-double of the season Saturday, finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds as Seton Hall continued its winning streak with a 66-57 victory at Providence. Sophomore guard Fuquan Edwin scored a career-high 24 points to lead all scorers.
If DePaul can pull off the upset Tuesday, it will have two Big East wins in a season for the first time since 2007-08. Since the start of 2008-09, the Blue Demons are a woeful 4-57 - including tournament games - against conference foes.
One of those wins, though, came last Thursday, an 84-81 victory over Pittsburgh behind 26 points from sophomore guard Brandon Young and 20 from sophomore forward Cleveland Melvin.
DePaul fell back to earth Sunday, losing 87-71 at Villanova despite Young’s 22 points and Melvin’s 19.
Melvin led the Blue Demons with 21 points and a game-high nine rebounds in last year’s loss to Seton Hall.
This is the second of three straight road games for DePaul, which travels to No. 14 Louisville on Saturday.