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Xavier v. Seton Hall: Preview, matchups, and keys to the game

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Xavier tries to rebound from only their second loss of the season by taking on a Seton Hall team that very nearly beat Villanova.

Kevin Willard presides over a team that And 1 would love
Kevin Willard presides over a team that And 1 would love
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Xavier comes into this contest having won 4 of 5 and 16 of 18. You would think that would be cause for unfettered optimism among Xavier fans, but it is somehow overshadowed by the fact that Xavier comes in on a one-game losing streak and the sky is falling in. Tre Campbell (of all people) dismantled Xavier's defense with a scalding shooting performance, and the Muskies were never quite able to climb back into the game against Georgetown. It has been almost exactly 11 months since X lost consecutive games; they're going to have to get it together against Seton Hall if they want to keep that streak alive.

Seton Hall is just .500 in Big East play, but they've already played Nova twice and boast a road win over Providence. They took Villanova to the wire in their midweek fixture, ultimately losing by one when a buzzer-beating heave went begging. This is a team that is still trying to figure out exactly who it is, but they have the firepower to play with just about anyone.

Team Fingerprint:

Seton Hall makes their bones on defense. They currently rank 33rd in the nation in defensive efficiency and force teams into an average possession length of 17.7 seconds. That's in the top third in the nation in long defensive possessions. The Pirates force possessions to go that long by getting after shooters. Teams shoot 32% behind the arc and only 44% inside the arc against them, and Seton Hall swats 11% of the shots that do start to make their way rimward. It gets better though, the Pirates also turns teams over on 20% of defensive possessions. About the only way they can be had is on the offensive glass, where all that other stuff leaves them surrendering a 31.3% offensive rebounding rate.

On offense the Pirates either get an offensive rebound or try to get to the line. They shoot 33% from deep, where they don't attempt many, and only 48% inside the arc. They get to the line a lot, but only convert 66% of their chances their. The fact they are in the top 100 in offensive efficiency is down solely to their ability to get on the offensive glass.They play fast, turn the ball over, and don't shoot very well at all. At least on paper, this is an offense destined to struggle against Xavier.

Starters:

Starting matchups
Isaiah Whitehead Point Guard Edmond Sumner
Sophomore Class Freshman
6'4", 210 Measurements 6'6", 183
15.4/2.8/4.5 Game Line 11.2/3.1/3.3
.358/.310/.741 Shooting Line .422/.381/.682
Whitehead was a hugely heralded recruit for Seton Hall, and he generally plays like he's the best thing that has even happened to the Pirates. He's not. His usage rate and shots% are both comfortably in the top 30 in the nation despite his having an ORtg under 100 and an EFG% of 41.8%. He's that guy at an open gym who frustrates his teammates by dominating the ball despite not getting very much out of it.
Khadeen Carrington Shooting Guard Myles Davis
Sophomore Class Junior
6'3", 180 Measurements 6'2", 188
14.7/2.9/2.4 Game Line 10.8/3.4/3.6
.433/.347/.774 Shooting Line .396/.392/.935
Carrington is a much more efficient player than Whitehead. He's serviceable but not prolific from deep, but he is excellent in scoring at the rim and getting to the line. He also does well in creating turnovers on the defensive end.
Desi Rodriguez Small Forward Remy Abell
Sophomore Class Senior
6'6", 215 Measurements 6'4", 185
11.8/4.6/1.2 Game Line 7.8/1.5/2.3
.500/.408/.677 Shooting Line .450/.382/.744
Rodriguez is the team's most efficient offensive player. He's a catch and shoot guy from beyond the arc, but he is aggressive going to the rim and can really, really get up. He's also a hellacious defender whose steal% is in the top 50 in the country.
Ismael Sanogo Power Forward Trevon Bluiett
Sophomore Class Sophomore
6'8", 210 Measurements 6'6", 215
4.7/7.5/1.5 Game Line 15.3/6.7/2.1
.477/.000/.529 Shooting Line .413/.392/.806
Sanogo is not a good offensive player, but he at least has the good sense not to look for his own shot. What he is is an excellent rebounder at both ends and a very good defender in terms of both blocks and steals. A third of his made baskets on the year are stickbacks.
Angel Delgado Center Jalen Reynolds
Sophomore Class Junior
6'9", 245 Measurements 6'10", 238
9.3/9.5/1.0 Game Line 9.6/6.7/0.6
.548/.000/.536 Shooting Line .517/.500/.661
Delgado is a very stout lad and an absolute monster on the glass at both ends. His solid shooting from the floor comes almost entirely at the rim, but it is let down by his mediocrity at the free throw line. He's a pretty good rim protector, but most of his defensive value comes on the glass. Like all of the Hall's big men, his touches are determined by the whim of Isaiah Whitehead.

Reserves:

Former UMass guard Derrick Gordon gets good minutes off the bench for the Pirates. The 6'3" senior goes for 8.7/3.6/1.8 on .425/.250/.651 shooting and is an excellent on-ball defender. Freshman combo forward Michael Nzei plays the three and four and is a really effective offensive rebounder. He gets 4.9/3.4/0.3 on .712/.000/.577 shooting; 46 of his 52 shot attempts have come at the rim. He has flashed potential as a rim protector in limited minutes this year. Other than those two, Seton Hall doesn't get consistent production from anyone off the bench.

Three Keys:

- Keep the Pirates off the offensive glass: Seton Hall doesn't shoot the ball well and they play relatively quickly. Basically, they try to get the ball near the rim and then go get it. In theory, that plays into Xavier's hands as the Musketeers like to force difficult shots and then suffocate the glass. Do that here and Xavier takes a huge step towards a win.

- Knock down early threes: Seton Hall wants to challenge shots inside and make possessions drag out. Xavier likes to shoot from outside and shoot in the first 16 seconds of the shot clock. If Myles or Trevon get rolling early, the Pirates defense can be unzipped from the inside out. It will be interesting to see if Edmond Sumner is looking to find his shot early rather than run at the larger Whitehead on the way to rim.

- Play some defense: Xavier was wretched offensively on Tuesday, but it was the defensive lapses that cost the the game. The 1-3-1 rotated slowly or sloppily, and shooters worked open in the man to man. DSR especially had his way with Sumner in the half court. You can bet Whitehead will also be working to get his shots off, though the likelihood of his making 4-9 from behind the arc is remote. Coach Mack probably will not abide another defensive showing like the last one we saw.