The Villanova Wildcats head to the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ on Monday, February 25th to take on the struggling Seton Hall Pirates. The game will be televised on ESPNU. Tip-off is 9pm.
Villanova is coming off a big win over #17 Marquette on senior night. The win over Marquette was a resume-building win for the ‘Cats as Joe Lunardi has now placed them back in the "Last Four In" category for the NCAA Tournament. Heading into the game they were one of the teams in the "Last Four Out" category for a NCAA Tournament bid. In the win over Marquette, the Wildcats came out playing poor offensively again in the first half. They were getting pretty good looks, but just weren't knocking down the shots. However, they were playing phenomenally on the defense side of the ball. Nova had great communication and great switches on ball screens. At the half, the score was tied at 22. In the second half Villanova executed much better offensively. Darrun Hilliard was the main reason for that, as he led the Wildcats with 22 points (14 of them coming in the second half). All in all, Villanova did a great job of protecting their home court and the win really helped their case for a NCAA Tournament bid.
Seton Hall, on the other hand, is having a very tough season having lost 9 games in a row, with their last win coming against South Florida on January 23rd. They find themselves second to last in the Big East standings. The team has been plagued by injuries all season. On Saturday, the Pirates got blown out by the Louisville Cardinals 79-61.
Here are a couple of things the Wildcats will have to do to avoid the upset vs the Pirates.
Come Out of the Gates Hot Offensively
In back-to-back games against Rutgers and Marquette, Villanova has shot awful in the first half. Against Rutgers, they had only 19 first half points and found themselves down 10 at halftime. As I stated in the introduction, Villanova only had 22 points vs Marquette in the opening 20 minutes. They were fortunate to come out of both of those games with wins. Their defense is what has kept those games close in the first half, enabling Villanova to come back with solid offensive games in the final 20 minutes. The 'Cats have to be careful against Seton Hall and not have a let-down game. If they don't play up to the level they’re capable of on defense and they continue with their offensive struggles in the first half, this game might be closer than what most people think. I'm not sure if it's just a Pavilion issue because they have shot poorly there all season, but the first half offensive trend has to stop. They will have to be more consistent for the full 40 minutes down the final stretch of the Big East season if they want to lock up a bid for the NCAA Tournament. Villanova should win the game against the Pirates if they can come out of the gates shooting a high percentage.
Defend the 3-Point Line
Villanova has struggled at times this season defending the 3-ball. The Pirates are a very good three point shooting team. On the season, they are shooting 35.6% from deep, which has them 3rd in the Big East in that Category. Junior SG Fuquan Edwin leads the team at 41.5%. Villanova will have to make sure they know where he is on the court at all times because he is the one guy on Seton Hall that can really hurt you. I have faith that they will be able to limit Edwin because of their recent success against opposing teams’ best shooters. If Villanova can do that, they should leave New Jersey with a win.
Prediction Villanova gets an easy win on the road 70-53.