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

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Xavier needs this one to stay off the bubble, Seton Hall needs it to move up the bubble. This game matters.

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

How we feeling Xavier Nation? Bad, I suspect. Xavier hasn’t lost four straight since Jeff Robinson lost track of score and situation and has taken two straight beatings this bad since January 28th and 31st of 2004. Yes, those are the two games right before The Run, but this situation feels a great different than that one 13 years ago. Xavier is now clinging to a spot just above the bubble and desperately needs a win tonight to stay there. Lose, and it’s down into the huddled masses.

Seton Hall, meanwhile, is in almost the exact opposite situation. The Pirates are on the bubble and by no means safe. Even a win over X today doesn’t change that for them, but it is a boost to their resume. Also unlike Xavier, Seton Hall hits this game both healthy and at home. Villanova just mopped the Prudential Center with Hall, so Kevin Willard’s boys coming in both smarting and needing a win.

Team fingerprint:

The Marquette team that held Xavier to 61 points on Saturday sits 100 spots below Seton Hall in terms of defensive efficiency. The Pirates don’t turn teams over, at all, but they do shut the offensive glass off and do a solid job of keeping teams from shooting well. With that, they also tend to foul quite a bit. Xavier will have plenty of chances from the line tonight, but shots elsewhere are going to come at a premium.

Offensively the Pirates are increasingly reliant on a red hot Khadeen Carrington. Outside him, the team isn’t a juggernaut when they have the ball. They turn the ball over too much, are horrendous from the line, and don’t shoot terribly well other than that. On the other hand, they rank right behind Xavier when it comes to corralling their own misses. This game figures to be an absolute war under the glass.

Players:

Starters:

Khadeen Carrington is the man right now. He’s getting 17.8/3/3 on 44% from the floor, but he went for 41/5/7 against Creighton two games ago in a game that the Hall had to have. He runs the show for the Pirates, and he’s going to get his. His off guard is Madison Jones to start most games. Jones gets 5.6 per game but mostly serves as a placeholder for Myles Powell. Desi Rodriguez is the third leading scorer with 15.2/5.1/1.7 and a Carrington equalling 38% from behind the arc. He and the two guys that outscore him per game are all legitimate defense destroyers when they get going. Michael Nzei is another starter on Seton Hall that doesn’t play as much as his backup. Nzei leads the team with a 68% mark from the line and a 116 offensive efficiency, but he plays less than 20 minutes per game at his forward spot thanks to foul trouble. That brings us to Angel Delgado. If anyone can challenge Xavier’s rebounding supremacy, it’s him. Delgado is in the top 20 in rebounding rate on both ends, averages 13.2 per game, has two 20+ rebound games, and has failed to be in double digit rebounds just three times this year. He’s an animal.

Reserves:

Myles Powell is the first option off the bench and gets 10.7/2.3/0.8 and shoots 38% from the floor but 81% from the line. Powell is a 6-2 guard, but is out there more to shoot than to facilitate. Ismael Sanogo is a 6-8 junior who is an excellent rebounder but not as much of an offensive threat as Nzei, who he usually replaces. No one else on the team averages even 10 minutes a game, and only Rashed Anthony, a little used 6-9 forward, has appeared in 20 of the games.

Three questions:

- Does Trevon play? This is the big one, right? If Bluiett plays Xavier is the favorite here, if only marginally. If he doesn’t, well...

- Who else can score? Rashid Gaston can if he gets fed the ball in the post, JP can if he is playing off someone else, Q can if he can figure out how to make a layup, Kaiser can if he gets the ball on the perimeter. Everyone comes with an “if.” Someone needs to shake it off.

- Can Xavier win on the glass? There will be no better test of the Musketeers rebounding dominance than the Pirates. If the officials let them play (please, Jesus, let this happen) it is going to be an absolute battle underneath.

Three keys:

- Get some easy points: Seton Hall is athletic, but they don’t play fast. If Xavier can get out and run, just for three or four buckets, it will boost an offense that has been stagnant for the better of two weeks.

- Get JP going: If Trevon can’t go, and smart money says he’ll be limited even if he can, JP Macura is Xavier’s next best scorer. Unfortunately, X is running sets for JP that are designed for Myles Davis Edmond Sumner Bluiett. JP isn’t the athlete that any of the former top scorers were, but with some tweaking the coaching staff can get him into places to be successful. That has to happen, and not right now, but right now.

- Gates and O’Mara: Either Kaiser Gates or Sean O’Mara, preferably both, needs to show up and start chipping in consistently. Both were in double digits against Marquette in a rout. They need to do something like that in a game that Xavier can still possibly win. It’s going to take the entire team clicking to have a chance in Jersey, some production from a big that isn’t Tyrique or Rashid would help.