Last time these two teams met, Xavier led by 10 with 12:16 to play. That left Seton Hall with just a 10.4% chance of winning. As you may remember, the Pirates insisted on playing the remainder of the game and went on a 34-14 run to win it. Quentin Goodin turned the ball over five times in the second half, he and Naji went 5-20 from the floor, and Xavier officially served notice that this was not to be their year in the Big East.
Since then, things have gotten much worse and then, more recently, much better. Xavier is long since out of the at-large hunt but two recent wins have them chasing that vital first round bye in the Big East tournament. Seton hall has only lost once this month and is making a late push to get themselves in off the bubble. For Xavier and their run to three games in three days, this is the game they are statistically least likely to win. For Seton Hall, a loss to a quadrant three team at home would be an albatross to their bubble resume.
Seton Hall plays fast, but not loose. The Pirates aren’t elite in caring for the ball, but they aren’t haphazard with it. In putting together the 70th most efficient offense Kevin Willard has ended up with a team that does one thing poorly (they get blocked on 11.5% of their attempts) that one thing relatively well, and everything else just somewhere in the middle. The Pirates don’t shoot terribly well, they don’t get on the boards well at all, they just don’t do anything that really sets them apart. Eight times this year they’ve been held under an offensive efficiency of 100. They can be shut down.
They can also shut teams down. Against Creighton 11 days ago the Pirates held the Jays to shooting an incredibly bad 31.6% inside the arc. That stands against Seton Hall’s general defense, which reads much the same as their offense. They don’t do great on keeping teams off the boards, they block shots well, and everything else just lands in the middle ground of a squad whose general statistical profile is that of a team that is just very inconsistent. That’s how you beat UK but also lose to DePaul twice.
|Quincy McKnight||Point Guard||Quentin Goodin|
|6'4", 185||Measurements||6'4", 194|
|The best assist man in the league, having a hand in a third of his teammates' buckets. He has decent pull up game and can score it around the rim, but he's shooting just 30.8% from deep in league play. Like Powell, he's a menace in the passing lanes on the defensive end. Unlike Powell, he's struggling from the line, shooting under 60% in Big East games.|
|Myles Powell||Shooting Guard||Paul Scruggs|
|6'2", 195||Measurements||6'3", 200|
|Powell is third in the conference in usage rate behind Markus Howard and Shamorie Ponds, a couple of dudes with whom you're likely well acquainted. He's something of a one-man band, with only Quincy McKnight within 10 percentage points of him in shots percentage. He can score it at all three levels and dribbles into his shot without hesitation. He's also 5th in the league in steal percentage and nails from the line. A tough customer.|
|Myles Cale||Small Forward||Naji Marshall|
|6'6", 210||Measurements||6'7", 222|
|Cale is an efficient scorer and good defensive rebounder who is a threat largely from beyond the arc. His finishing and mid-range game are mediocre at best. He doesn't distribute, turn the ball over, or get to the line much. He's a solid tertiary option for the offense and a reasaonable defensive asset.|
|Michael Nzei||Power Forward||Tyrique Jones|
|6'8", 205||Measurements||6'9" 235|
|Nzei shoots mostly layups and is really good at making them; he's also a threat a step or two out from the basket, but has 0 3PA in 126 career games. Not much of a defensive rebounder, but he is Seton Hall's biggest consistent threat on the offensive glass.|
|Sandro Mamukelashvili||Center||Zach Hankins|
|6'10", 230||Measurements||6'11", 245|
|Qunicy McKnight, the team's point guard, takes a higher percentage of his field goal attempts from at the rim than their purported center does. Mamukelashvili only shoots 43% at the rim, but he's shooting 38% from deep in conference play and has made 15 threes in 13 Big East games. He's an okay offensive rebounder but incredible on the defensive glass. He's also 5th in the league in block%.|
The rotation has really gotten tight in conference play for Kevin Willard. Less than a quarter of the Hall’s minutes come off the bench, and even less so in the last month or so.
When they do reach for a substitution, the coaching staff often calls upon Jared Rhoden. He’s a 6’6” freshman wing who does good work on the offensive glass and averages 2.6/2.1/0.2 on an unspectacular shooting line. Freshman guard Anthony Nelson is a 6’4” PG who has good assist numbers but terrible ball security.
Inside, 6’11” former Xavier target Taurean Thompson might get 20 minutes, like he did against Providence on the last game day of January, or 3 minutes, like he has averaged in February. He blocks shots and cleans the glass well. Romaro Gill is a 7’2” monster, but he gets little run since he turns the ball over like it’s covered in hot lard.
- Is Naji back? Over the last five games, Naji is averaging 16.2/5.2/3.8 on .450/.444/.818 shooting. (Thanks to @RetireFiftyTu for the research.) Xavier hasn’t turned that resurgence into wins, they are just 2-3 in that stretch, but it’s obvious that Naji is feeling better and playing better. This version of Marshall will eventually lead to Musketeers wins if he sticks around.
- Is Elias Harden in the rotation now? Harden is averaging 16 minutes per game over the last four games. Harden adds an unquestionable energy to the team, but the last time he played this many double digit minute games in a row, he followed it up by going 0, 8, 0 over the next three. Eli still shoots like a guy who isn’t in rhythm, but the Musketeers need his depth.
- How long can Xavier ride Paul Scruggs? Scruggs hasn’t posted an offensive efficiency over 100 (or even 90) since February 3rd against Creighton. Since then he is averaging 5.3 turnovers per contest and only 7.3 points. Paul is averaging 32.6 minutes on the season and looks to be wearing down ever so slightly. The Musketeers need their star player if they are to have any chance in March.
- Hammer the offensive glass: Xavier has the best high major offensive rebounder in the nation and Seton Hall doesn’t do well defending the glass. The Musketeers need to chase every shot and rack up second chance points. Like this:
Just watch this for the rest of your night.— Xavier Gameday (@XavierGameday) January 20, 2018
- Flip the script on the other end: Xavier cannot afford to allow the Pirates second chance points. This isn’t a good offense, and giving it extra opportunities is the recipe for a loss. As I mentioned yesterday, When the Pirates get above the 25% mark on the offensive glass, they are 11-3. Xavier must dominate the boards in this game.
- Take care of the ball: Until Xavier actually does this consistently, this will remain a key. Xavier’s turnover rate against Providence was 26.5%. Unless you think that the Musketeers are always going to shoot 60% inside the arc and 57% from three, that’s not sustainable. If it happens again tonight, Xavier will lose.