Myles Powell’s greatness makes anything possible for Seton Hall

Ultimately, Seton Hall is here because a chubby freshman became a chiseled star senior. The Pirates will reach a school-record fifth straight Big Dance because a coach who went 82-80 with no NCAA Tournament appearances in five seasons was invited back for a sixth try.

There is Kevin Willard, who made it all possible. There is Myles Powell, who makes anything seem possible. There is much more to come.

When the Pirates came back from 10 points down Wednesday to win at No. 5 Butler, you learned the true potential of a team capable of capturing its first Big East regular season title in 27 years. When they overcame an atrocious start and 13-point halftime deficit to St. John’s on Saturday, you learned the true identity of a team capable of recreating 1989.

They have opened Big East play with six straight wins for the first time ever, notching four on the road. They have won six straight league games for the first time in 17 years. Their current eight-game win streak matches the longest of Willard’s 10-year tenure.

“We’re just showing everybody we’re tough,” point guard Quincy McKnight said. “I think everybody’s playing their role right now and that’s what’s making us so good. Nobody’s forcing the issue. We’re just doing what we do.”

There is Powell, so there is no deficit too great. Even when the star guard misses his first six shots. Even when he goes to halftime with just six points.

Powell opened the second half by becoming the fifth player in Seton Hall history to reach 2,000 career points. He closed things out by putting Seton Hall ahead five separate times, while scoring 23 of his 29 points following the break and 15 in the final 8:17.

Powell could become the first Pirate named Big East Player of the Year since Terry Dehere in 1993 and the school’s first First Team All-American since Walter Dukes in 1953.

“You’re looking at a pro,” Willard said. “I can’t say enough. [He’s] the best player in college basketball.”

Powell couldn’t return the compliment quickly enough, aware of what it took for the long-overlooked program to elevate into a national contender.

“When one of the best coaches in the country has that much confidence in you, it’s kind of hard to lack confidence,” Powell said.

It may never be this good again. Luring the country’s top recruits is a challenge. Stumbling into a superstar like Powell is even more unlikely.

“We’ve been blessed to watch him play for the last 3¹/₂ years,” Willard said.

Imagine what you may soon watch.

For a team that hasn’t reached the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament since 2000 — and hasn’t been higher than a six-seed since 1993 — Seton Hall could enjoy a quick trip to Albany for the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, then play the following week at the Garden.

It’s not too soon to look ahead. Look around. Six teams have been ranked No. 1 in the country. Duke lost to Stephen F. Austin. Kentucky lost to Evansville. No traditional power is to be feared. No player is as frightening to face as Powell.

How do you make a run?

By following one emotional win with another, like securing a second-ever road win over a top-five team, then winning another away from home against a rival. You do it whether or not you lose a key piece, like Sandro Mamukelashvili, who is out with a broken wrist. You do it with elite defense and coaching, with size and with perhaps the best player in the country.

“This is what I came back for my senior year for,” Powell said. “I’m blessed to be in this situation and thankful for everything that’s coming my way.”

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