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Big East Tournament championship game preview: Villanova vs. Seton Hall

It’ll be the Wildcats and the Pirates in Saturday night’s championship game!

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Seton Hall Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Villanova Wildcats are back in the championship game for an astounding fifth-straight year. What’s even better is that they’ll have a chance to do something that no Big East team has done since its inception for the 1979-80 season, three-peat as Big East Tournament champions.

Villanova’s path to the finals hasn’t been as pretty or aesthetically pleasing as some of the other recent championship performances, but it’s gutted out two solid wins to make it this far.

On Thursday, the Wildcats managed to hold off a pesky Providence Friars team that just wouldn’t go away. Villanova didn’t shoot the ball too well in that game, but did just enough to maintain that second half lead. In Friday’s semifinal, the Wildcats didn’t get it going until very late in the game and was one play away from being upset--if it weren’t for an Eric Paschall tip-in to force overtime.

Villanova trailed for the entire second half, until Paschall tied things up to send the game into overtime--where ‘Nova would take it over. While a resilient win, the Wildcats struggled offensively once again, unable to get things going until the closing minutes of regulation and overtime.

The Wildcats have been cold from deep, shooting a combined 19-of-60 from beyond the arc over their two Big East Tournament games this season.

Now, they’ll have another tough challenge on Saturday night against a Seton Hall Pirates team that’s still riding out that strong finish of the regular season.

The Pirates survived a bizarre officiated game that could have easily gone either way. Things hit a climax with this:

fter the ejections, technical fouls, players fouling out, Myles Powell had another strong finish to the game after being a non-factor for half of the game. He helped spark a comeback, after the Pirates were down by double figures early.

Seton Hall fans are having flashbacks to 2016 and have heavily embraced the underdog role from being picked to finish eighth in the preseason. The Pirates are also using the motivation of being snubbed from major awards, with Powell believing he should have been Big East Player of the Year and fans arguing Willard should have won.

Powell made his case by outdueling Markus Howard on Friday night, and now Willard will have another shot going up against Jay Wright.

Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET.

Scouting Seton Hall

We already know the deal, Myles Powell is the leading man and he’s the type of player that can heavily sway a game. Powell has been phenomenal in the Big East Tournament, taking his play to an even higher level.

In the quarterfinals against Georgetown, he set a Big East Tournament record for most points in a half, breaking Doug McDermott’s record and exclaiming, “This is my f---ing city!” He only had a couple more points in the second half, but the damage was already done.

Through both Big East Tournament games Seton Hall’s played in, he’s combined for 53 points on 18-of-37 shooting (48 percent) nd has dished out 10 assists.

The key for Seton Hall has been getting secondary contributions aside from Powell, and it has had no shortage of that. Against Georgetown, Myles Cale and Sandro Mamukelashvili (who’s eligible to play on Saturday, after being ejected) were able to pick up for Powell, when he quieted down in the second half.

Then, against Marquette, Mamukelashvili carried Seton Hall while Powell was struggling in the first half, but then Quincy McKnight and Michael Nzei added strong complementary performances in the second half to help the Pirates take the lead and pull away.

It’s not the same people every night, but it seems like Seton Hall is able to finally get solid secondary scoring elsewhere, and that’s definitely helped in getting this far.

Re-Evaluating the Regular Season Finale

In the Mar. 9 showdown, which Villanova lost at the Prudential Center, the ‘Cats did a pretty good job offensively. They shot 48 percent overall, and a similar clip from long range. Sure, it was a slow start for Eric Paschall and Phil Booth, but Collin Gillespie was able to keep them afloat until the rest of the ‘Cats got going.

Villanova’s demise came from the fact that Seton Hall had lights out three-point shooting outside of Powell, which is something that doesn’t typically happen. Cale was 6-of-8 from deep and Jared Rhoden had a season-high 15 points off the bench.

However, the big killer was on the glass. Villanova allowed Mamukelashvili to rack up 10 of his 18 rebounds on the offensive boards, giving Seton Hall extra possessions--a momentum killer when trying to climb back into a game.

Also, the Pirates excel at creating turnovers, doing so on 20 percent of opponents’ possessions. Villanova was not immune to this, turning it over 14 times, just a few more above its regular season average of 11 per game.

The Wildcats can’t allow themselves to get torched on the glass once again or have issues with turnovers. More importantly, they need to find their shot again. They haven’t found that same offensive success in a game since that regular season finale. ‘Nova has found ways to scrape by, but it eventually has to start hitting from deep again, right?

Can they finally get it going? Will they three-peat? Does Seton Hall spoil Villanova’s time in New York once again? If anything’s for sure, it’s that when these two teams meet at Madison Square Garden, it’s going to be a fun time.