Xavier has not played for a week. After this game, they will not play for another week. Such is conference play in the age of Covid. The Musketeers are 8-1 but have been unable to put together a solid stretch of games since the start of December. After beating Oklahoma on December 9th, X has played two games in the following 20 days. For a team that had been rolling, that loss of momentum is less than ideal.
Seton Hall missed time early in the season but now has 10 games under their collective belt. The Pirates are not the power that they were last season, but they have some decent wins already. Road wins over Penn State and Marquette are somewhat offset by four losses, but none of those losses have been to a sub-100 team. When Xavier was struggling with Creighton before Christmas Seton Hall was polishing off Georgetown.
Seton Hall’s offense isn’t markedly worse than it was last year. The Pirates are still top 40 in the nation in efficiency. They also still like to run the offense through one person, though now that is Sandro Mamukelashvili instead of Myles Powell. Seton Hall isn’t excellent in any one facet of offense, but they aren’t bad in any one either. They’ll move the ball well and they don’t get on the offensive glass well. Beyond those two things, they are just a solid offense.
On defense the Pirates have lost a bit since last season. They are currently a still not at all terrible 57th in the nation, but they don’t force turnovers and they have been getting lit up from behind the arc. Inside the arc the Pirates defense is much more stout, which makes their 30.2% offensive rebounding rate allowed an oddity. What the Hall will do is try to cut off the passing lanes and make teams beat them one on one from the perimeter.
|Shavar Reynolds||Point Guard||Dwon Odom|
|6'2", 185||Measurements||6'1", 180|
|Odom should be back tonight. If not, Colby Jones will be in this slot. One of them will be dealing with Shavar Reynolds, a pass first point who can shoot it well when he does pick his spots.|
|Myles Cale||Shooting Guard||Paul Scruggs|
|6'6", 210||Measurements||6'4", 196|
|Myles Cale is a big guard who doesn't go to the rim that often or rebound with any enthusiasm. What he does do is shoot the ball well. Cale has taken the most three point attempts on the Pirates and will not hesitate if he can find space. He lit Georgetown up for 30 in his last game.|
|Jared Rhoden||Small Forward||Nate Johnson|
|6'6", 210||Measurements||6'4", 195|
|Rhoden hammers the defensive glass and does most of his offensive damage from there and the midrange. He can step out and shoot it mediocrely and at times will fall in love with the perimeter shot. He's at his best when that is falling, but it hasn't fallen a lot this year.|
|Sandro Mamukelashvili||Power Forward||Jason Carter|
|6'11", 240||Measurements||6'8", 227|
|Mamukelashvili is Seton Hall's best scorer and one of the best players in the conference. He can socre at every level, rebound, and find tammates with a pass. His last game was a bizarre 2/3/2 effort, but he's unquestionably the key to this game for Xavier's defense.|
|Ike Obiagu||Center||Zach Freemantle|
|7'2", 270||Measurements||6'9", 225|
|Obiagu is a large slice of human. He's mostly out there because he blocks shots a 14.6% rate, but he's good on the offensive glass and is a passable free throw shooter as well. If he stays out of foul trouble, he's a menace.|
Off the bench there hasn’t been a lot for Kevin Willard this year. Harvard transfer guard Bryce Aiken is back healthy and is excellent with the ball. He would figure to start over Reynolds if not for shooting .83% outside the arc and 22% inside it. Takal Molson is a 6-5 forward who has struggled offensively all season but logs the most minutes of any bench Pirate. The only other Seton Hall player to have appeared in every game and average more than 10 minutes is Tyrese Samuel, a backup big who is excellent around the rim but doesn’t add a lot of value elsewhere.
- Can Xavier keep hitting from deep? The Musketeers are shooting 39.1% behind the arc for the season, good for 30th in the nation. Last game, though, that abandoned them. After hitting six of their first 11 threes, X made just two of their next 21. In just one season the Musketeers have been reshaped into a team that needs to keep hitting from deep in order to have success. Seton Hall doesn’t defend from deep well, so it’s theoretically a good matchup.
- Can Zach Freemantle stay on the court? In Xavier’s nine games Big Frosty has been in serious foul trouble three times. Twice he has subsequently fouled out. That didn’t matter against Tennessee Tech, but against Toledo and Creighton Freemantle’s foul trouble put Xavier in serious trouble. If it happens again tonight the Musketeers will take on Seton Hall’s height shorthanded.
- Who draws Sandro Mamukelashvili? Sandro leads the Pirates in scoring and is second in rebounding and assists. Zach Freemantle is Mamukelashvili’s match in size, but gets in real trouble when he has to defend on the perimeter. Jason Carter is quick enough to guard him, but is giving up three inches and 25 pounds. Ben Stanley is an intriguing possibility because of his ability away from the rim and the strength that might allow him to keep Mamukelashvili out of the post. Xavier has to find someone who can stay with one of the Big East’s biggest matchup nightmares.
- Get some offensive rebounds: Xavier isn’t a good rebounding team this year. They are mired somewhere in the middle of the pack in both offensive and defensive rebounding. Three of the Musketeers four most efficient offensive games have come when they collected at least a respectable 30% of their misses. Winning games in the Big East means finding ways to be efficient outside what has been working all year.
- Keep the ball moving: Seton Hall is very good at limiting ball movement and making teams beat them more out of isolation. Xavier is 12th in the nation at assists on made baskets. One of those will have to give tonight. If Dwon Odom is back and he and Paul Scruggs can keep the offense clicking, the Pirates can be had.
- Utilize the depth: The only way to be in game shape is by playing games. Xavier is not in game shape right now. Seton Hall also hasn’t played in a week, but they have played three games in the preceding span where X played one. The Musketeers are deep, though. This could be a great game for Kyky Tandy, Ben Stanley, or another player of the bench mob to have a serious impact. Coach Steele has a plethora of tools at his disposal, now is the time to deploy them.