Wednesday, January 8, 2014
When: 7:00 pm Eastern
RPI: Villanova: 6 | Seton Hall: 126
KenPom: Villanova: 8 | Seton Hall: 119
Prudential Center (Capacity: 18,711)
Where: Newark, NJ
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: 610 WIP
Odds: Villanova -9 | O/U OFF
The history with Seton Hall might go back longer than you think. Since their inaugural tip-off in 1921, a game the Pirates stole with a final score of 28-14, Villanova has controlled the series to the tune of 65 wins and 37 losses. Last year, the Wildcats lost a heart breaker to their Big East foe, 65-66. Mouphtaou Yarou led the way with 14 points and 15 boards.
In a season where not much was expected out of Seton Hall, little has gone according to plan. After a mediocre start to its non-conference schedule, including losses to Mercer, Fairleigh Dickinson, and the ever-dangerous St. Peter's Peacocks, the Pirates received some shocking news. Promising sophomore guard Tom Maayan was forced to return to Israel to take part in his mandatory service for the Israeli Defense Force. Compounding the injury to their rotation, senior starter Eugene Teague was carted off the court and hospitalized after a head injury against Lafayette. The big man, averaging 11 points and 9 boards for the Pirates, is out for the contest against Villanova. Seton Hall split their opening Big East contests; they won a double overtime thriller at Providence but couldn't repeat the success against Creighton, losing 79-66.
When looking at what remains of the Pirates' depleted roster, eyes immediately shoot to senior forward Fuquan Edwin. Statistically, the preseason 2nd-Team Big East selection has underwhelmed to an extent, particularly in the past three games. Despite posting some huge stat lines early in the season, including a season high 35 points against Mercer, Edwin has averaged only 7 points in his last three games. Part of this regression can be attributed to decline in three point shooting; Edwin's shooting clip from distance is down a full twelve percentage points this year, decreasing from 41% to 29%. He still is capable of knocking down the open shot, however, so Villanova's defense must be keyed in on him at all times. He remains a thief on defense, pilfering a staggering 3.2 steals per game.
Seton Hall's offensive attack is currently led by sophomore guard Sterling Gibbs. Filling the void left at starting point guard by Aaron Cosby, who transferred to Illinois, Gibbs has done well in his opening season for the Pirates. He himself a transfer from Texas, the new acquisition quietly places in the top ten for scoring in the Big East at nearly 16 points per game. Gibbs makes his living at the free throw line, averaging a terrific nine trips to the charity stripe each contest. I've noticed that Villanova's defense often struggles to contain guards who can penetrate, so it will be interesting to see how Coach Wright gameplans to slow down the Pirates' dynamic weapon. Expect a lot of pressure from Chennault and Ennis in this one.
Overall, the Pirates boast a balanced attack. Ten players average at least 10 minutes and nearly six average double digit scoring. Other than Gibbs, Villanova's defensive focus should be on quick rotations and high energy. While they may not be overly talented, Seton Hall will be one of the deepest teams the Wildcats will face this year.
In the end, Villanova's plethora of weapons on offense will be too much for the Pirates to handle. I predict a final score of 87-68. Expect a bounce-back performance from James Bell and domination on the inside by Jayvaughn Pinkston. For my bold prediction, I'll say Daniel Ochefu matches his season high of 8 points and 4 blocks.
Seton Hall is led by coach Kevin Willard. His basketball career began at Western Kentucky, where he played for three years before transferring, and ultimately finishing, his playing days at Pittsburgh. Before taking the job with the Pirates, Willard spent three seasons with the Iona Gaels. During that time, he completed a massive transformation. Willard turned the Gaels from a bottom ten RPI team into a Top 80 program in 2009-2010.
Willard's greatest success might have come these past months on the recruiting trail. Seton Hall boasts an impressive 2014 class, ranked thirteenth in the country by ESPN, headlined by shooting guard Isaiah Whitehead. The consensus top-50 recruit Whitehead was recruited by Villanova before committing to play for the Pirates.
Wow, does Seton Hall have some friends in the broadcasting booth! Their alumni include legends Dick Vitale and ESPN anchor Bob Ley.
Not all famous alumni need to be real though, right? Sopranos star Tony Soprano told his daughter, fittingly in the episode named "College," that he attended Seton Hall University for a year and a half before deciding the college life just wasn't for him. Also related, Chris Christie graduated from Seton Hall in 1987.
Baltimore: 7:00 PM, Rowhouse Grille, 1400 Light Street, Baltimore, MD
Boston: 7:00 PM, Warehouse, 40 Broad Street, Boston, MA
Colorado: 5:00 PM, Irish Hound, 575 Saint Paul Street, Denver, CO
Dallas-Forth Worth: 6:00 PM, Nodding Donkey, 5600 SMU Blvd, Dallas, TX
Hartford: 6:30 PM, The Tavern Downtown, 201 Ann Uccello St, Hartford, CT
Southern New Jersey: 7:00 PM, Main Street Pub, 2011 Main Street, Voorhees, NJ
Manhattan: 7:00 PM, The Mason Jar, 43 E 30th Street, New York, NY