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

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The biggest conference week maybe in program history starts as Xavier hosts a reeling Seton Hall.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Seton Hall
Tre tells ‘em what they’ve won.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

This game is huge for both teams, albeit for different reasons. Xavier is on the brink of putting themselves into position to win the league. If they take care of business tonight, the showdown with Nova on the weekend is a battling for the driver’s seat in the Big East.

Seton Hall probably needs this one more than Xavier does. The Pirates were looking good at 14-2 early in January, with seeding being their only concern on Selection Sunday. Since then they’ve gone 3-6 and slid to some bubble-adjacent real estate. They’re probably still going to be fine for the tournament, but 5 of their last 6 regular season games are tier A according to KenPom, so arresting the slide isn’t going to be easy.

Team fingerprint

Seton Hall’s offense is pretty mediocre, thanks to a couple of things they just don’t do very well. One is shooting; they’re decent from deep but fairly hesitant to pull from there. Inside, they’re 8th in the Big East with a 49.2% two-point shooting mark. They’re also miserable from the free throw line. Ball security is their other Achilles heel; they’re 8th in the league in TO%. They are second in the conference in OReb%.

Defensively, they don’t force turnovers at all, and they’re pretty weak on the glass. They’ve had some luck pressuring the arc as a unit, and they’re not bad at forcing tough shots inside it. It’s too many second chances combined with not forcing enough possessions to end on turnovers that ultimately makes Seton Hall the 7th-rated defense in a ten-team league.

Personnel

  • Seton Hall is a team of four big guns: Desi Rodriguez, Angel Delgado, Khadeen Carrington, and Myles Powell all have usage rates of 20.7% or higher. No one else who plays notable is over 15.4%
  • The Pirates have lost one game all year where there were fewer than 70 possessions, and that was to Nova. The Hall may be loaded with athletes, but they are better off going slow than they are fast.

Starters

Starting matchups
Khadeen Carrington Point Guard Quentin Goodin
Senior Class Sophomore
6'4", 195 Measurements 6'4", 190
13.7/2.9/4.6 Game line 8.3/3.1/5
0.398/0.333/0.827 Shooting line 0.435/0.3/0.823
Carrington is deadly from the line and excels at getting there, but he's not much of a shooter other than that. He's mediocre on the season behind the arc, but he runs very hot and cold back there. He will care for the ball well when he's not shooting it.
Myles Powell Shooting Guard J.P. Macura
Sophomore Class Senior
6'2", 195 Measurements 6'5", 203
15.1/2.2/2.5 Game line 12.5/4.3/3
0.476/0.419/0.771 Shooting line 0.457/0.337/0.839
Powell is a shooter who isn't afraid at all to lift from behind the arc. The Pirates look to run him off the ball, so he takes 93% of his threes off a pass rather than creating his own. No matter how he gets it though, he does damage.
Desi Rodriguez Small Forward Trevon Bluiett
Senior Class Senior
6'6", 220 Measurements 6'6", 202
17.8/5/2.3 Game line 18.9/5.6/2.8
0.501/0.379/0.711 Shooting line 0.453/0.426/0.819
The star of the obligatory Seton Hall player drama this year is a pure scorer who takes 28% of the shots when he's on the floor. Rodriguez shots split neatly into thirds between at the rim, two point jumpers, and three point attempts.
Ismael Sanogo Power Forward Naji Marshall
Senior Class Freshperson
6'8", 215 Measurements 6'7", 218
5.4/5/1 Game line 7.7/3.5/1.5
0.533/0.35/0.568 Shooting line 0.546/0.345/0.734
Sanogo is a defensive menace who can score a little bit inside. The other four starters all have usage rates 21% or higher, but Sanogo comes in at 12.6% He's a one way player who is there to D up and clean the glass.
Angel Delgado Center Kerem Kanter
Senior Class Senior
6'10", 245 Measurements 6'10", 240
13.3/11.8/3 Game line 10.8/5.2/0.5
0.487/0/0.579 Shooting line 0.574/0.341/0.76
You wonder what Delgado could have been if he'd had a coach who could develop him at all. Instead, he remains what he was as a freshman: nearly unstoppable on the offensive glass, a very good shot blocker, and utterly bereft of any offensive ability at all.

Reserves

Michael Nzei and Myles Cale are the only Pirates off the bench that play double digit minutes. Nzei is another bruising big who can monster the offensive glass but, like Delgado, hasn’t really developed at all under Willard. Cale is a win who can shoot it a bit, but will push to the rim if given a chance. Sandro Mamukelashvili is a 6-10 freshman, but he’s more a pick and pop four than a back to the basket big. Eron Gordon is an intriguing young guard who can shoot it a bit from anywhere (other than the line) but turns the ball over too much to be effective right now.

Three questions

  • Who matches up with Delgado? It’s easy to hear cases for Tyrique Jones (power versus power) and Kerem Kanter (pull Delgado out of the paint with that silky J) as the answer to what Seton Hall’s big man brings to the game, but it was actually Sean O’Mara who neutralized him down the stretch in close to South Orange. Delgado is no great shakes as a scorer, but addressing his presence in the middle is vital for an opponent.
  • Can Kevin Willard make the necessary adjustments to Seton Hall’s defense? The Pirates have been bleeding points of late, getting gashed to the tune of 263 points in 214 possessions (1.23 PPP) in their three losses to Villanova, Marquette, and Georgetown. Those are the 1st, 4th, and 8th best offenses in the league, so not exactly murderer’s row. If something doesn’t change tonight, Xavier will light them up at Cintas.
  • Is JP revving it up again? After basically being a one-man band in the last ten minutes at Seton Hall, JP was the basketball equivalent of one of those “World’s Okayest Dad” mugs. Not only am I sure JP will be a great dad one day, but he showed signs of rounding back into Peak JP mode, being all over the place chasing loose balls, antagonizing opponents, and launching senseless heat checks against Creighton. JP has just a handful of regular season games left at Xavier; what a time this would be to hit a stride.

Three keys

  • Win the freebie war. Seton Hall basically begs teams to destroy them on the offensive glass and doesn’t force turnovers. On the other end, they crash the glass hard but have mediocre ball security. All this should add up to a lot of extra possessions for Xavier. The number one challenge will be securing the defensive glass, but the Muskies should be up for it: they’re first in the Big East in DReb%.
  • Hold a free throw advantage. Xavier has had trouble getting a favorable whistle recently (hahahahahahahahahaha, just kidding). The Muskies have been second in the league in getting to the line and first in the league in not sending opponents to the stripe. Seton Hall has been just a step behind X in each category; if Xavier can get to and execute from the line better than Seton Hall, it will go a long way towards winning this game.
  • Don’t look ahead. Full disclosure: I’m totally looking ahead. That Nova game is all that’s on my mind. I don’t have to execute crap against Seton Hall tonight though, but Xavier’s players do. I can afford to watch the whole game while dreaming about knocking off the Wildcats and winning the league; the Muskies need to stay focused on the game at hand, execute crisply from the start, and take care of business before moving on.