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Big East Preview (Part 3): Seton Hall, St. John’s, Xavier

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Our final look into Villanova’s Big East opponents.

NCAA Basketball: St. John at Villanova Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

We’re wrapping up our look around the Big East with the final three remaining teams — Seton Hall, St. John’s and Xavier.

Seton Hall Pirates

Head Coach- Kevin Willard (11th season as head coach)

This Season’s Record: 2-3

Last Season’s Record: 21-9 overall, 13-5 in the Big East

Key Players: Sandro Mamukelashvilli (“Mamu,” 6-11, Sr., F), Shavar Reynolds Jr. (6-2, Jr., G), Ike Obiagu (7-2, Jr., C)

Key Departures: Myles Powell (G, 17.5 PPG) and Quincy McKnight (G, 11.9 PPG)

Outlook: Early this season, Seton Hall has struggled to find players who can fill the scoring void left by Quincy McKnight and more notably, Myles Powell. Starting guard, Harvard transfer Bryce Aiken, is out with an ankle injury for at least another week. This has put a spotlight on senior Shavar Reynolds, who was benched with four fouls after scoring only five points against Rhode Island on December 2nd. The Pirates have also struggled from the free throw line, shooting just 13-of-23 against Rhode Island and 8-of-12 against Oregon. However, Seton Hall most recently outlasted Penn State 98-92 in overtime, after overcoming a 19 point deficit in the first half. Mamu had a career high with 30 points, and the Pirates outscored Penn State 54-30 in the paint. Unless the Pirates can find Mamu consistent help, they will struggle to remain a contender in the Big East.

St. John’s Red Storm

Head Coach- Mike Anderson (2nd season as head coach)

This Season’s Record- 5-1

Last Season’s Record- 17-15, 5-13 in the Big East

Key Players- Posh Alexander (6-0, Fr., G), Julian Champagnie (6-8, So., G), Greg Williams Jr. (6-4, Jr., G)

Key Departures- L.J. Figueroa (Transferred to Oregon, G/F, 14.5 PPG) and Mustapha Heron (G, 13.8 PPG)

Outlook- With its fast-paced style and tenacious defense, St. John’s has kept opponents on their heels. The Red Storm forced 19 turnovers against Boston College on Nov. 30, helping the Johnnies secure the win. Sophomore and Big East Honor Roll Nominee Julian Champagnie leads the Red Storm, averaging 23.3 points and six rebounds. Greg Williams Jr. has also been a huge factor, adding 21 points and six steals against Stony Brook. Freshman guard Posh Alexander has provided a spark (9.3 PPG, 5 AST, 2.8 STL) while filling in for senior Rasheem Dunn (concussion protocol). Yet, the Johnnies have struggled from beyond the arc, shooting only 27.8% on the young season. In order to take a step forward in the Big East, St. John’s will have to continue to force their tempo on opponents and improve their perimeter shooting.

Xavier Musketeers

Head Coach- Travis Steele (3rd season as head coach)

This Season’s Record- 6-0

Last Season’s Record- 19-13, 8-10 in the Big East

Key Players- Zach Freemantle (6-9, So., F), Jason Carter (6-8, Sr., F), Paul Scruggs (6-4, Sr., G)

Key Departures- Naji Marshall (F, 6’7”, 16.8 PPG) and Tyrique Jones (F, 6’9”, 14 PPG, 11 REB)

Outlook- While Paul Scruggs (13.7 PPG, 7 AST), is clearly the focal point of the Musketeers offense, Zach Freemantle and Jason Carter have been large contributors in their undefeated start to the season. Freemantle has been a prolific scorer (17.2 PPG) and a dominant force on the boards (8.5 RPG). Carter also averages 9.2 rebounds and has helped Xavier in close games by shooting 83.3% from the free throw line. Despite their record, many of the Musketeer’s games have been painfully close against unranked opponents. On Nov. 30, Xavier barely escaped with a win against Eastern Kentucky in overtime, 99-96. However, they most recently put together a lopsided victory over Oklahoma. In order to succeed in the Big East, Xavier will have to continue to diversify its attack and continue to shoot from the perimeter, after mostly being an interior scoring team last season.