By any reckoning, Seton Hall has been the least of the East. Since joining the Big East as a charter member in 1979, the Hall has had the most dismal marks in the conference (18-97) and overall (90-137), and its postseason bids can be counted on one finger. But steadily, stealthily, the Pirates have been improving. They finished above .500 (15-14) last season for the first time under coach P.J. Carlesimo and went to the NIT. Now there's talk of the program's first NCAA invitation ever. Says senior Mark Bryant, "It's time for Seton Hall to come out."
Bryant, a 6'9", 225-pound forward-center, grew up in South Orange, N.J., five minutes from the campus. He had his pick of a dozen schools, but chose a place where both home cooking and playing time were in easy reach. Bryant got his fill of minutes right away against Patrick Ewing of Georgetown in 1985. "Definitely intimidating," Bryant remembers. "Never smiling. All this, all that. I was in awe."
Last year Bryant was forceful himself in two victories over Georgetown, but against lesser teams Seton Hall faltered. "Last year we'd just get up for the good teams," says Bryant. "This year I'll make sure we're up. I'll bang heads."
When it joined the Big East, Seton Hall was coming off six straight winning seasons, but faster than you could say John Thompson, the league took off, and the Hall was left lagging. When Carlesimo arrived in '82, the school had a rundown arena, one full-time assistant and a weight room a mile off campus. "I'd bring in a recruit and he'd ask where the weight room was," the coach recalls. "I'd say, well, we've got this great strength coach, he's right near here, we'll just jog over. The kid is going, 'What the——?' "
Carlesimo has fine-tuned his recruiting pitch. To prospects from New York he offers the sanity of the suburbs; to out-of-towners he pitches the proximity of New York, only half an hour away. "Just being in the league—even when we weren't in it—is a huge benefit," Carlesimo' says. "Around here, if you're in another league—I can't put this another way—you're dead."