The Villanova Wildcats travel north to Newark, New Jersey to seek a regular-season sweep of the Seton Hall Pirates. If the Wildcats are able to win this game, they will clinch the six seed in next week’s Big East Tournament.
As Creighton coach Doug McDermott said after getting obliterated by a hot-shooting Eric Dixon and the Wildcats’ defense, “nobody wants to play [Villanova], nobody.” The ‘Cats are hot at the right time in large part due to star guard Justin Moore returning to form after tearing his Achilles in the final seconds of last year’s Elite Eight win over Houston.
On the other hand, Seton Hall enters the rematch as losers of four out of their last five games. The Hall will certainly be hungry for a win as they welcome the Wildcats to the Prudential Center.
No matter how good the two rosters are, the Villanova-Seton Hall “rivalry” never disappoints. Villanova has won six straight matchups against Seton Hall, but all games were hard-fought and decided by eight points or less.
Both teams are desperate for wins, Seton Hall to gain some momentum heading into the Big East Tournament, and Villanova to earn a miraculous NCAA Tournament bid. Ahead of the matchup, let’s highlight a few things to watch out for:
Seton Hall Has Experience But Lack Chemistry
After making the NCAA Tournament five out of the past six tournaments, Kevin Willard departed and accepted a job at Maryland. Seton Hall went out and hired former Seton Hall basketball player Shaheen Holloway, who led 15th-seeded St. Peter’s on a miraculous Elite Eight run last season.
Seton Hall entered year one under Holloway without high expectations, especially with massive roster turnover and was voted to finish sixth in the Big East Preseason Rankings – and they currently sit in sixth-place.
Each of the top eight scorers for Seton Hall is either a senior or junior, so on paper they should be a strong Big East team. However, although the Pirates are an experienced team, seven of their eight top scorers did not start their college career at Seton Hall and transferred in.
As Villanova has seen earlier in the year with Iowa State, sometimes a team full of transfers works, but sometimes those teams struggle to find chemistry – Seton Hall has struggled to find chemistry this season with plenty of new players and a new coach.
Seton Hall’s lack of chemistry is most glaring when you look at their assist to turnover ratio. The Hall ranks 311th in the nation in terms of assist to turnover ratio with a ratio of 0.85. Yes, 0.85, that means they have more turnovers on the season than assists.
With promising big-man Alexis Yetna out for the season, the Pirates are led by Clemson transfer and lockdown defender Al-Amir Dawes who is averaging 12.4 points and 1.2 steals per game while shooting just under 40% from three.
Seton Hall’s most well-rounded player Kadary Richmond who is averaging 10.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game is questionable for Tuesday’s matchup with a back injury. Richmond suffered the injury early in the UConn game on February 18th and has not played since.
Are Villanova’s NCAA Tournament Hopes Alive?
It is not a secret that this has not been Villanova’s best season. The Wildcats are only 15-14, which is not a record that shouts “tournament team”, but the ‘Cats situation is different from all 15-14 teams.
With star guard Justin Moore playing like himself again, the Wildcats have been standing toe-to-toe with Big East heavyweights. Villanova has given every Big East opponent a good game this season, even with Moore out, but they were just not able to close games.
With Moore back, the Wildcats have two straight top 25 and Quad 1 wins. Before this winning streak, the Wildcats had zero top 25 or Quad 1 wins. Villanova is in an interesting position where they are hot and have opportunities to bolster their resume.
With Seton Hall’s poor five game stretch, they have fallen to 79 in the NET rankings which would make an away win for Villanova a Quad 2 win at the time. If the Hall are able to win next week at Providence and win the 7/8 matchup in the Big East Tournament, it is likely that Villanova’s win will end the season as a Quad 1 win.
In addition to this opportunity, the Wildcats welcome the 8th-ranked (NET) UConn Huskies to the always-rowdy Wells Fargo Center on Saturday for one final opportunity to pick up a Quad 1 win this regular season.
With two wins to end the regular season, it would be tough to ignore the possibility of making the NCAA Tournament with a strong run in New York. The ‘Cats would open with either Georgetown or DePaul and if they win, play the No. 3 seed who would be guaranteed to be another Quad 1 opportunity.
Hypothetically, if the ‘Cats win all these games with their fully healthy roster, it would be tough to overlook this team on Selection Sunday.
As Kyle Neptune would say, “the most important game is the next one”, so Villanova must first take care of business Tuesday night in Newark. The game will take place at 8:30 pm ET and can be viewed on FS1.