The Big East Tournament was all-chalk through today's first semifinal, but it's impossible to make it through Big East week in New York without at least one upset. The late semi-final didn't disappoint, with unranked Seton Hall knocking off fifth-ranked Xavier, 87-83.
Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard proved why he was named co-Coach of the Year in the league, as his Pirates upset a Xavier team that had been in contention for a 1-seed in the NCAA tournament. The Hall led by 11 at the half, and though the Musketeers chipped that lead down to four in the second half, they couldn't take back control.
Here are three things to know about the Pirates:
Seton Hall is feeling the "home court" advantage
Newark is just a short ride on New Jersey Transit from Madison Square Garden, and their fans, their friends, and their families are usually in the house when they play there. A lot of their roster hails from the New York area, and they feel just as at-home at MSG as they do in the Prudential Center.
Only three of their eight losses this season, including one of their losses to Villanova, were on their home court.
Isaiah Whitehead is killing it
Whitehead is leading the team with 16.3 points per game and 3.8 assists this season. More importantly, he has been playing some of his best basketball at the end of the season, scoring over 20 points in all of the last six games.
Against Creighton in the quarterfinals, he dropped 24 points, and grabbed 12 rebounds, and six assists, for the Hall, and helped carry his team late in the game, as they put away the Bluejays by eight points. Against Xavier, he scored 20 points, grabbed 5 boards and dished out 8 assists in the four-point victory.
They are much better on defense
Heading into their semi-final win over Xavier, KenPom.com rated the Pirates' defense 16th in the nation. Their offense isn't too shabby either, but pales in comparison at 59th. The cause of their offensive struggles may be mediocre shooting from the perimeter. Whitehead and Desi Rodriguez have connected on 38.4% and 38.7% , respectively, but the team lacks many other true threats from the outside.
This is a team that hustles to make plays on the defensive side of the court, and they've been better-than-average at in limiting their opponent's shooting, and generating turnovers. They get physical with opponents, which can stymie talented offenses.