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Xavier v. Seton Hall: Preview

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This weekend Xavier suffered a bad loss on the road, while Seton Hall picked up a great win at home. Are the Musketeers good enough to hold serve at the Cintas?

Point guards don't come a lot better than Sterling Gibbs.
Point guards don't come a lot better than Sterling Gibbs.
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Home court advantage is shaping up to the be the name of the game in the Big East. Xavier beat Georgetown at home, then went on the road and lost to DePaul. That DePaul team is dreadful at basketball but sits at 2-0 in the conference because they haven't gone on the road yet. Seton Hall, Xavier's opponent today, beat the best team in the conference, Villanova, at home. Playing in what Ken Pomeroy ranks as the third toughest conference in the nation, no trip is ever a sure thing.

Thank the Lord, then, that Xavier is at home tonight. Seton Hall, as you'll see below, is down Isaiah Whitehead but they are undeniably on a roll. Xavier should be back to full strength after the flu has swept the team and is definitely not on a roll. In Big East play alone the Musketeers are second in the conference in offense and third in defense. Seton Hall comes in first in offense and fourth in defense. Home or not, this one figures to be a good game.

Team fingerprint:

Losing Whitehead hasn't slowed the Pirates, who are 3-0 without him. In theory, the offense would have struggled without Whitehead, but Seton Hall played their most efficient game without him and then put up the fifth most efficient game Villanova has surrendered all year. The Pirates shoot well (37.5%) but not all that often (190th in the nation) from deep, preferring to hammer the offensive glass (35.7% OR rate) and get to the line on 45% of their shot attempts. Seton Hall isn't great from the line (64.2%), but they don't get the ball stolen or get blocked all that often. In short, they're a solid if not spectacular offense that slows the pace and relies on grunt work.

On defense is where the Pirates shine. They are 34th in the nation in defensive efficiency because the suffocate three point shooters, allowing teams to shoot only 25.9% from behind the arc, good for third in the nation. (For reference, Xavier shoots 39.2% from deep, 25th in the nation). The Hall is also in the top 100 in block and steal percentage and teams only shoot 43.6% from inside the arc against them. Because of the gambling for steals and the shot challenging, teams to get to the offensive glass well against Seton Hall, grabbing 33.2% of their misses.

Seton Hall will get 35% of their minutes from the bench, roughly average in the nation, and plays with an effective height of .8".

Starters:

STARTING MATCHUPS
Sterling Gibbs POINT GUARD Dee Davis
Junior Class Senior
6'2", 185 Measurements 6'0", 160
16.6/1.5/3.7 Game line 9.5/1.9/5.4
.477/.500/.750 Shooting line .430/.359/.771
Name something a guard should do and there's a good chance Sterling Gibbs does it well. He distributes the ball without turning it over, draws fouls without committing them, scores without dominating the ball, and generally leads this Seton Hall team. He's not a great finisher at the rim, but he has a good mid-range game and shoots threes very well from both wings and the top of the key.
Jaren Sina SHOOTING GUARD Remy Abell
Sophomore Class Junior
6'2", 185 Measurements 6'4", 195
7.6/2.6/2.3 Game line 10.1/1.7/2.1
.356/.358/.800 Shooting line .554/.424/.722
A quarter of Sina's field goal attempts have come from the left corner, where he's shooting 53% this year. He's not a threat from inside the arc (7-20 this year), but he has the potential to work free from deep and hurt you if left unattended. I wouldn't be surprised to see Dee spending a lot of time on Sina to free up Remy to chase Sterling Gibbs.
Stephane Manga WING Trevon Bluiett
Senior Class Freshman
6'6", 220 Measurements 6'6", 215
2.6/1.5/0.2 Game line 13.1/4.9/2.1
.520/.000/.429 Shooting line .455/.397/.833
Manga starts but only averages about ten minutes per game. He is more of a placeholder for freshman Khadeen Carrington, who has been getting big minutes lately as Seton Hall plays three guards. For his part, Manga isn't a particularly effective scorer or rebounder and turns the ball over too frequently.
Brandon Mobley FORWARD James Farr
Senior Class Junior
6'9", 225 Measurements 6'9", 237
10.1/5.1/0.9 Game line 5.1/6.5/0.6
.459/.351/.818 Shooting line .390/.259/.556
Mobley gets almost all of his rebounds at the defensive end, and that's because his game on offense keeps him away from the rim. He's a dangerous three-point shooter from the wings, especially in pick-and-pop action, and his mid-range game is above-average. He's a decent enough shot blocker, but he has a tendency to get himself into foul trouble at times.
Angel Delgado CENTER Matt Stainbrook
Freshman Class Senior
6'9", 230 Measurements 6'10", 263
8.6/8.9/0.7 Game line 12.1/7.4/2.1
.610/.000/.351 Shooting line .649/.333/.724
Delgado lives at the rim; 80% of his shots have come from there, and he's not effective from anywhere else on the floor. Credit to the young man for knowing who he is, though. A third of his shots have been stickbacks, and he is relentless on the glass at both ends of the floor. He's also a very good shot blocker. His game needs a lot of polish, but he's got a motor fit for ten men and he'll have you for dinner if you relax for even a moment.

Reserves:
Khadeen Carrington is a freshman guard averaging 11.6 PPG off the bench in his last five games. He's 6'3", 180 and defends well on the perimeter; his shooting line of .411/.238/.705 speaks to his status as more a bench gunner than an efficient scorer. Desi Rodriguez is undersized (6'6", 215) but a strong rebounder who gives depth at the four, and that's pretty much it for a bench that has been depleted by Isaiah Whitehead's injury.

Three questions:

- Who has momentum? More to the point, who will come out like they have momentum? Xavier is coming off a ridiculous loss, Seton Hall off a big win. Look at the first two four minute wars to see if either team is carrying anything over. If Xavier comes out flat, they'll run the risk of getting buried by a team it's hard to come back against.

- Will Xavier finally look inside? Seton Hall isn't easy to score against inside, but they're almost impossible to bomb into submission. Xavier has, for whatever reason, been unwilling to the post for some combination of Jalen Reynolds and Matt Stainbrook. Offensive rebounds should be easy to come by, but they bigs shouldn't be forced to live off scraps tonight.

- Who will play point guard? Dee Davis is going to get the start at the point, but who comes after him remains a mystery. Brandon Randolph has been ineffective and then vanished, Larry Austin Jr. is essentially a two minute defensive substitution at this point, and Myles Davis and Remy Abell have ended up handling the ball.

Three keys:

- Shake it off: Losing to DePaul should never have happened, but a hangover tonight isn't going to change that. If Xavier comes out making the same mistakes at home as they did on the road, it will be as strong an indictment on this coaching staff as there has been.

- Knock down some shots: Seton Hall is death on teams behind the arc, but Xavier isn't going to stop shooting back there. Forcing the Pirates to stretch their defense even a little bit would open up room for Xavier's bigs. Whether the ball would go inside remains to be seen, but the option will be there if a couple of threes fall early.

- Take care of the ball: Throwing the thing all over the place or turning it over four times in five possessions like Xavier did against DePaul will end this game quickly. Xavier's turnover rate on the season is 17.9%, that jumped to 23.4% against the Blue Demons. If that happens again, this is another loss.