The Villanova Wildcats will travel to New Jersey Wednesday night and put their undefeated Big East record on the line against the Seton Hall Pirates. Kevin Willard's team is 13-4 overall and currently 3-2 in Big East play. The 'Cats defeated Seton Hall 72-63 in the Pavilion just a couple weeks back, and will look to complete the sweep of the annual home-and-home series.
Seton Hall has only played two games since their last meeting with 'Nova, suffering a defeat at home against Creighton but rebounding nicely by going to Providence and upsetting the Friars last weekend. Villanova hasn't had any trouble with Seton Hall at the Pavilion, but on the road or at Madison Square Garden it's been a different story. Last year at the Prudential Center the Pirates took down 'Nova and Sterling Gibbs' step-back jumper gave them the win in the 2nd round of the Big East Tournament in 2014.
Here are 3 things to watch for Wednesday night:
Chef Eats Against the Pirates
In last year's overtime loss to Seton Hall, Daniel Ochefu had one of his greatest performances in a Wildcat uniform scoring 19 points, grabbing 24 rebounds, and playing 35 of 45 available minutes. In the return trip he went for 11 points and 12 rebounds, and earlier this season he scored 20 points to go with 18 rebounds. Needless to say, he likes to play against the Pirates and for all the hype surrounding Angel Delgado he's had no answer for #23.
However, in last Wednesday's victory over Marquette Chef suffered a deep tailbone bruise and along with having the flu he was visibly struggling and hobbling to get up and down the court at times on Saturday vs. Georgetown. He was only able to score 6 points and grab 4 rebounds, but his 3 blocks and defensive presence were vital in securing the win.
Hopefully the flu has passed and with a few more days of rest his tailbone is healed because if he is at 100% you can look for Chef to have another dominating game against Seton Hall.
Both Teams Excel on Defense
Villanova has the 4th best defensive efficiency according to KenPom and Seton Hall isn't too far behind, coming in at 30th. In the last matchup with these two teams that was evident as Seton Hall shot 35% from 2 and 'Nova couldn't do any better, hitting only 36% of their 2's. Neither team will make it easy on the other.
Seton Hall also forced the Wildcats to turn it over 13 times, unusually high for the Wildcats who don't have a player averaging over 1.7 turnovers a game. The Pirates only lost the ball 12 times, below their season average of 14, but were clearly bothered by the Villanova pressure and only managed to post 63 points.
The Wildcats' D has really ratcheted up in recent weeks, and If they can play that level of defense against the Pirates they have a good chance to come out victorious. Seton Hall has the 97th ranked offensive efficiency in the country, nothing that the 'Cats can't handle to keep them off the scoreboard.
Isaiah Whitehead Will Get His Shots
Despite an improving talent base on the roster, Isaiah Whitehead is still the top dog for the Pirates and Willard needs him to play well for the team to have success.
After an up and down freshman season where he shared the backcourt with Sterling Gibbs, he's made some noticeable improvement but still isn't what you would call efficient. He currently is taking 32.6% of Seton Hall's shots, 27th in the country of all players who have played at least 40% of their teams minutes. He holds a 46.6 true shooting percentage, and is only shooting 39% from 2 and 30% from 3. Not great, Bob.
Where Whitehead has improved is his ability to distribute the ball. He has recorded 7 assists twice and had one game with each 8, 9, and 10 assists. Because of the attention he draws from defenses, this newfound ability to share the rock makes him more dangerous than before. The Wildcats will try to goad him in to poor decisions shooting the ball instead, and will happily trade him some points for a volume of missed shots.