Seton Hall played a great game against the Wildcats and managed to head into the showers with a 66-61 victory in the team's last meeting at the Prudential Center. Now it is Villanova's turn to play host in the series -- one of the most-played among the Big East rivalries.
Seton Hall knocked off two straight ranked opponents to start conference play before losing on the road at Xavier. They looked resurgent, like a team that would fight at the top of the league and be a lock for the NCAA Tournament by the time this game came around. Instead, they went into a mid-January tailspin, losing three straight to Butler (twice) and DePaul and recently losing their last four contests.
The Pirates are now sitting at 15-10 overall and 5-8 in the conference, and they'll need some impressive results down the stretch to secure a place in tournament.
With that said, here are three things to consider for Villanova heading into this game.
There's no Jaren Sina tonight
Starting guard Jaren Sina left the team prior to their last game. It wasn't entirely clear what caused the former Gill St. Bernard star to quit the Pirates, but it seems like perhaps their locker room chemistry was not very good. Sina scored just four points in their last meeting with Villanova, and averaged just 7 points per game this season. He was the team's third-best 3-point shooter, their second-best free-throw shooter, and averaged 2.3 assists.
Without Sina in the line-up, the Hall went with forward Stephane Manga in the starting line-up against Providence and came within seven points of knocking off the Friars. They've had around a week to adjust to playing without Sina, however, so they may be more comfortable with their rotation tonight.
Isaiah Whitehead will play
Isaiah Whitehead was the best-rated recruit in the entire Big East conference coming into this season, but an injury held the talented guard to the bench in the last meeting between these teams. Whitehead is averaging 12.3 points -- second-best to Sterling Gibbs -- along with 4.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.4 steals. He's also hitting on 38.8% from deep. Whitehead brings a different element to the Pirates that they didn't have when they faced Villanova last month, so the 'Cats will have to adjust to dealing with him quickly.
He's a very talented athlete who is capable of big time scoring numbers if he's given the opportunity. He has been stopped or slowed on a few occasions this season, however, and Villanova will have to have a game plan to manage him in addition to Sterling Gibbs (16.9 ppg and 20 against Villanova on Jan. 3).
The Hall doesn't like the Paint
Offensively, Seton Hall seems to prefer to fins a jump shot and attack from the perimeter, leaving big man Angel Delgado somewhat under-utilized. Georgetown, for example, outscored the Pirates by 18 points on shots inside the paint, and opponents generally have outscored the Hall by a big margin on the inside. That means that getting the ball to Daniel Ochefu and JayVaughn Pinkston on offense could be a big advantage for the 'Cats.
If SHU tries to get the ball inside to Delgado, they will need to improve their passing, which has been sloppy and turnover prone as well. Their perimeter guys have also struggled to drive the ball inside to score as well. Villanova should look to challenge them to make those tough shots inside, while working the post offensively on the other end for easy points.