Thursday, February 13, 2014
When: 12:00pm Eastern
RPI: Seton Hall: 148 | Villanova: 4
KenPom: Seton Hall: 90| Villanova: 6
Madison Square Garden (Capacity: 18,200)
Where: New York, NY
TV: Fox Sports 1
Stream: Fox Sports Go
Radio: 1210 WPHT
Big East Tournament History
The Villanova Wildcats have clashed with the Seton Hall Pirates three times during the 24 year old history of the Big East Tournament. Villanova won two of those three meetings. Most recently, the Wildcats came away with a victory in the opening round of the 2004 tournament with a final score of 61-60. Villanova squeaked by on the back of Randy Foye and a little forearm push-off:
Villanova Wildcats vs Seton Hall Pirates 2004 (via 513official4)
Breaking down the Pirates
Villanova won both regular season meetings, the first one coming on a sloppy, but safe 16-point win in Newark. The return meeting at the Pavilion was threatened by a campus-wide power outage, but the threat of cancellation made no difference as the 'Cats dispatched the Pirates by 17.
Seton Hall offers a balanced offense that doesn't rely on one player in particular. Starting off in the backcourt, the Pirates are led by Fuquan Edwin and Sterling Gibbs, a transfer from Texas. Edwin is averaging just under 15 points per game and was named to the All Big East 2nd Team. Gibbs is very dangerous off the bounce, utilizing hesitation dribbles and a quick first step to get in the lane almost at will. Naturally, then, he boasts one of the highest free throw rates in the country. Gibbs attempts just under eight free throws per contest, good for 35th in the country. Villanova guards did a very good job of containing the Pirates floor general in their second meeting this season. Coach Wright will likely place an emphasis on staying in front of and switching on Gibbs again.
Interestingly enough, Gibbs only played limited minutes in the Pirates opening contest against Butler; he recorded zero points in only 14 minutes of play. Freshman guard Jaren Sina received the start instead of Gibbs. Sina is known for having a sweet stroke, but has yet to prove it in either contest against Villanova. What guard coach Kevin Willard elects to play most will make a substantial difference in the makeup of the Pirate's offense.
Due to Gibbs' ability to penetrate the defense, Seton Hall's marksmen on the wings are afforded ample opportunity to knock down shots from beyond the arc. Brian Oliver stands as the biggest threat from distance. The 6'7" senior attempted more than six shots from downtown per game during the regular season, connecting on just more than 42% of them. He burned Villanova in their first meeting of the year with six made three pointers. It's imperative for Villanova to maintain awareness of where Oliver is at all times.
Lastly, the Seton Hall frontcourt is manned by Patrik Auda and Gene Teague. Teague, a senior, sports 270 pounds of straight power; he utilizes that frame to back down smaller opponents with ease. In the opening round against Butler, Teague asserted himself at will against the undersized Bulldogs, despite battling the flu. He scored 13 points and added 14 rebounds. Villanova, particularly Daniel Ochefu, was able to contain Teague in their second meeting this season, holding him to a manageable 10 points.
Patrik Auda offers a different threat than his counterpart center. Auda uses nimble footwork and a soft touch to compliment Teague's force. Expect JayVaughn Pinkston to match him down low.
What's on the line?
For Seton Hall, this is do or die. As a result of injuries and suspensions plaguing their regular season, the Pirates must win the Big East Tournament in order to secure an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Villanova, however, is playing for a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Many bracketologists believe that, should the Wildcats run the table in the Big East, the top seed in the Eastern Region is theirs.
But, as I'm sure coach Wright and his players are fully aware of, what matters most is the game at hand. Expect Seton Hall to come out punching tomorrow. Eventually though, I predict the Wildcat's toughness and talent to win out.
Final score prediction: Seton Hall 64, Villanova 78