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

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Xavier comes off a win over number one and runs directly into a very tough challenge on the road.

Isaiah Whitehead torched Kris Dunn his last time out.
Isaiah Whitehead torched Kris Dunn his last time out.
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Do you know Seton Hall's position? If you don't, the easiest way to sum it up is to describe it as the exact same position Xavier was in with three conference games left last year. They have a decent resume at this point and are staring down the barrel of hosting a top 10 team, visiting a top 50 team, and ending the season with a mop-up. Two wins in those three will have the Pirates feeling comfortable; fewer than that and they'll be heading to MSG knowing they probably need at least one Big East Tournament win.

This year's Xavier is in an enviable position, with a huge win against Villanova standing as the crown jewel of an already handsome tournament resume. If Xavier can close out the season well, an appearance on the top line isn't out of the question for the Musketeers. That Villanova win sets up a potential letdown game this weekend; if Xavier's focus slips even just a bit, Seton Hall is the kind of team that will be able to make them pay.

Team Fingerprint:

The only defense that has been better than Seton Hall's since conference play started is that of Villanova. It's tempting to not be terribly concerned about that since Xavier just torched the Wildcats for 90 points, but I think everyone recognizes that is not going to be the new norm. The Pirates do their damage by forcing teams to miss shots. Opponents shoot only 44% inside the arc and only 30% from deep against Seton Hall. The Pirates also come up with steals on 10% of possessions, force turnovers on 20%, and block shots on nearly 12%. Like most teams that contest and gamble so much though, they can be had on the offensive glass.

On offense Seton Hall really isn't terribly good. They shoot mediocrely from outside (34%), but are 47% inside the arc in conference play and knock down a pretty appalling 67% of their three pointers. That's a bit deceiving though, in that the Pirates are shooting 42% from deep over their last three games. No team has gotten on the offensive glass in conference play like Seton Hall has. Against Xavier the first time they grabbed 18 offensive boards and they've raked down a sterling 33.9% of their misses since the Big East tipped off.

Players

Isaiah Whitehead Point Guard Edmond Sumner
Sophomore Class Freshman
6'4", 210 Measurements 6'6", 183
16.9/3.2/5.0 Game Line 11.7/3.3/3.4
.376/.377/.778 Shooting Line .426/.333/.741
Seton Hall's fate is typically tied to Whitehead's, for better or worse, but he has been red hot since losing at Cintas, averaging over 20 points and 6 assists a game. This has majorly contributed to the Pirates being 7-1 in that stretch, and his improve 3 point shooting and more freely moving the ball have been keys to his recent success. He still shoots 3rd most of anyone in the conference, but his recent run from outside has somewhat justified it.
Khadeen Carrington Shooting Guard Myles Davis
Sophomore Class Junior
6'3", 185 Measurements 6'2", 188
13.9/3.0/2.4 Game Line 10.7/3.6/4.0
.404/.323/.754 Shooting Line .395/.374/.861
Quite unlike Whitehead, Carrington has not taken to life after Cintas as well. Carrington's recent troubles have seen him fail to make more than 2 three in the past 8 contests, despite shooting fewer than 5 just once. Clearly he is not suffering from a lack of confidence, but the fact is his game relies on outside shooting to be efficient on offense and he is shooting under 30% in conference play. That being said, he was 4-9 at Cintas this year so there is hope he likes this matchup.
Desi Rodriguez Small Forward Remy Abell
Sophomore Class Senior
6'6", 215 Measurements 6'4", 185
12.4/5.1/1.3 Game Line 5.9/1.4/1.6
.513/.391/.684 Shooting Line .397/.333/.768
Rodriguez has been quietly excellent for the Hall this year, leading the team in True Shooting %, 3PT %, Ortg, and steal rate. He uses his much improved range from last season to set up his driving game and has the athleticism to put himself, and whatever unsuspecting defender may be in his way, on the highlight reel. On defense he has the most active hands on the team and creates a lot of chances through both steals and offensive rebounds.
Ismael Sanogo Power Forward Trevon Bluiett
Sophomore Class Sophomore
6'8", 210 Measurements 6'6", 215
4.7/6.9/1.4 Game Line 15.1/6.5/2.3
.460/.000/.500 Shooting Line .418/.384/.784
Sanogo is a glass and defense big man who is rarely the option chosen to shoot, which is probably because he is bad at it. He is a good but not great rebounder and gets a lot of steals for a big man, while also blocking a fair number of shots. If X needs to foul late, this is the guy to grab.
Angel Delgado Center Jalen Reynolds
Sophomore Class Junior
6'9", 245 Measurements 6'10", 238
10.2/9.8/1.0 Game Line 9.6/6.6/0.8
.572/.000/.576 Shooting Line .512/.333/.629
Delgado is still much the same player as last season, which is a good thing for Seton Hall fans. He rebounds well, blocks shots decently, and scores well from the floor, if not from the line. He is still a part of the offense mostly when the guards remember he exists and scores at an efficient clip and get him the ball. Delgado struggled mightily last time, fouling out in 20 minutes with only 7 points and 7 boards in a James Farr tour de force. He will likely have revenge on the mind in this meeting.

Reserves

There are a pair of major contributors off the bench for Seton Hall, who are 276th in the nation in bench minutes. Derrick Gordon is a senior by way of Western Kenucky and UMass, and has provided a lot of minutes off the bench with solid rebounding and steal rate numbers. What he does not do is score efficiently or particularly often, getting is 8.0/3.4/1.9 on a pretty dismal .387/.214/.607 shooting line. 6'7" freshman Michael Nzei plays less than Gordon and has found the transition to the Big East a bit difficult. He had 4 points last game, but the last time he scored multiple baskets two games in a row was in December against Troy and St. Peter's. He might not bring a ton to the table offensively, but he did get 8 boards against St. John's.

Three Keys:

Contain Isaiah Whitehead- In the game at the Cintas Whitehead managed 17 points on 20 shots. That's remarkably bad and it was one of the main factors in Xavier's win. Since then Whitehead has played only two games with an offensive efficiency below 100. He's always going to be a volume scorer, so Xavier must make sure that he needs a lot of shots to get his points. If he gets hot like he did against Providence, the Musketeers are in for a long day.

Rebound- Coach Mack mentioned in the postgame of Xavier's win over Villanova that the rebounding effort hasn't been as good as the season has dragged on. Against Nova the Musketeers were back to being borderline dominant on the glass, but Seton Hall is a sterner test. The Pirates are going to be crashing the offensive glass after every shot. That both gives Xavier the chance to run if they can end possessions, and opens them up to second chance points if they start leaking too early. Limiting extra shots for Seton Hall will be vital if Xavier is to pick up another road win.

Come out strong- One of Xavier's problems directly prior to and including the Creighton loss was coming out flat. Beating the #1 team in the nation may make it a bit difficult to get up for an unranked opponent on the road, but if Xavier comes out slowly, the Pirates absolutely will make them pay. Coach Mack needs to have his team ready to go from the tip, because a big comeback against this defense will be a tall order.