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

The reigning Big East champs host the Pirates in the first of nine near must-win home games in conference play.

St John’s v Seton Hall
Kevin Willard brags about getting to second base with your sister during a recent Seton Hall game.
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

There aren't any easy wins in the league for Xavier this year. There was a time even a down season for the Muskies would serve them Fordham and Charlotte at some point, but the Big East is an unforgiving grind. The latest challenge to Xavier's undefeated conference record comes in the form of the Seton Hall Pirates and their coach, bargain bin Chris Mack.

In addition to being #HallIn, the Hall is having kind of a weird year. They've gotten run off the court by a surprisingly good Nebrasketball team, lost at home to a not-good Saint Louis, and dropped a close one to Louisville. They've also got good wins against Miami (no, the other one) and Kentucky on neutral floors and at Maryland. They're riding a six-game winning streak and are 1-0 in conference thanks to a controversial comeback win against St. John's.

Team fingerprint

Seton Hall plays fast on offense, burning just a hair over half the shot clock on the average possession. Despite their haste, their ball security is top notch. They get to the line well, though they're only about average at converting their FTs. Good news for Xavier: they're not much on the offensive glass. Even better news: they don't shoot many threes and make only 32% of them.

Defensively, Seton Hall is solid across the board without having any one area of spectacular strength. They're a tick above average in forcing turnovers and keeping opponents off the line and a tick below in EFG% defense and DREB%. They're fairly permissive from behind the arc, which isn't necessarily crippling against Xavier.



Starting matchups
Quincy McKnight Point Guard Quentin Goodin
Junior Class Junior
6'4", 185 Measurements 6'4", 194
9.2/2.8/3.1 Game line 13.7/2.8/5.7
0.455/0.417/0.725 Shooting line 0.383/0.27/0.709
McKnight is on the floor to move and protect the ball. He does both of those things relatively well, and he picks his spots from the floor.
Myles Powell Shooting Guard Paul Scruggs
Junior Class Sophomore
6'2", 195 Measurements 6'3", 200
22.5/3.2/2.3 Game line 11.9/4.6/3
0.467/0.376/0.873 Shooting line 0.526/0.463/0.781
Powell is Seton Hall's big weapon. He scores more than twice as many points as anyone else, he takes 30% of the shots when he's on the floor, and he's very efficient for a big scorer.
Myles Cale Small Forward Kyle Castlin
Sophomore Class Senior
6'6", 210 Measurements 6'4", 193
9.2/4.1/1.5 Game line 5.1/3.2/0.7
0.357/0.333/0.71 Shooting line 0.453/0.25/0.679
Cale has taken more threes than anyone but Powell, but he's not the shooter he fancies himself. Unless he plays transcendent defense, his penchant for shooting and 92 efficiency speak to a player prone to wasting the ball.
Michael Nzei Power Forward Naji Marshall
Senior Class Sophomore
6'8", 205 Measurements 6'7", 222
10.2/5.3/0.9 Game line 13/8.1/3.5
0.659/0/0.488 Shooting line 0.428/0.236/0.704
Brutally efficient inside, brutal from the line. If Nzei could convert his free opportunities, he'd be an absolute monster. He doesn't, though.
Sandro Mamukelashvili Center Zach Hankins
Sophomore Class Junior
6'10", 230 Measurements 6'11", 245
10/7.8/1.7 Game line 9.5/4.6/0.7
0.489/0.333/0.585 Shooting line 0.716/0/0.675
Sandro played 21 minutes against X in the second meeting last year and went for 17/7/1. He's good on the glass and effective inside with a decent outside shot. Hankins or Jones will have his hands full tonight.


The Hall isn’t terribly deep. Anthony Nelson gets the most minutes off the bench at 14.5 per contest and uses most of that time passing the ball. His team leading assist rate is nearly matched by his turnover rate. Taurean Thompson comes off the bench and shoots the ball more frequently than Powell despite being so much worse at it people must question if the two players are attempting to do the same thing. He leads the team in bench scoring, but only because he lifts incessantly. The only other Pirate to average double digit minutes off the bench and appear in every game is Jared Rhoden. He’ll get on the offensive glass and do what damage he does inside.

Three questions

-Is it just about three pointers? Nobody is confusing DePaul for the Showtime Lakers, but Xavier was able to defend them semi-effectively at their place thanks to the work Q did on Max Strus and the fact that DePaul can't shoot from behind the arc. Seton Hall isn't a great shooting team, they have one guy who should be keyed on, and the game is at Cintas. Hopefully Xavier can repeat the trick.

-Is it just about three pointers, part II? Xaviet started off hot from deep against DePaul, cooled significantly in the middle of the game, and closed hard with more threes. When the three ball wasn't falling, Xavier's offense was fairly miserable. Made threes are often the final product of a good offensive process for Xavier. If you see Q or Naj dribbling into one with 23 seconds left on the shot clock though, assume there's an offensive dry spell looming.

-Who is your center? Tyrique cleans the glass better, Hanky blocks more shots. Other than that, both guys are fairly similar. Against a team that doesn't board well and doesn't shoot that well from deep, it might behoove Xavier to set the defense to funnel everything towards the eraser in the middle. Seton Hall got buried by a white guy with an attitude last year; what say we set that up again?

Three keys

-Chase Myles Powell off the arc. Powell is 41-109 (37.6%) from three; the rest of the team is 44-153 (28.7%). In the same way that Xavier fans shake their heads a bit when an opponent lets Ryan Welage get free, Seton Hall fans know Powell is their only credible threat from deep. X has struggled to defend teams out there; hopefully they can handle one dude.

-Rebound. Hot take: Xavier will lose the turnover war to the Pirates, probably handily. The only place to get extra shots back from that is on the glass. The Muskies have to hold Seton Hall to one shot, and they have to get second chances of their own. If they don't, they'll get out shot by a lot, and that's hard to come back from.

-Don't settle on offense. Seton Hall has only 2 guys who have come off the bench in every game and nobody outside their top 5 getting even 15 minutes per game. Foul trouble will put them in places they don't want to be, but that won't happen if X lets them defend comfortably. A commitment to getting the ball into the paint instead of settling for long jumpers will pay dividends for the Muskies.