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

Xavier heads out for the last road trip of the season. First stop: South Orange, or wherever Seton Hall plays now.

NCAA Basketball: Seton Hall at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Since Zach Freemantle went down, Xavier has outscored their opponents by a total of 37 points over the span of 6 games. There's an argument to be made that it has been an even bigger margin than that, as X was up 25 on DePaul before they pulled their rotation players and let the Blue Demons chop 11 points off the lead against mostly the walk-ons. The rotation is +48 without Big Frosty.

Unfortunately, that has translated to a 3-3 record. X has won by 2, 25, and 14 and lost by 2, 1, and 1. A couple more friendly bounces and Xavier is 6-0 and cruising towards the league title; it's hypothetically arguable that Freemantle makes that difference in each of those three games. It's a results business though, and right now X is playing for matchups in the Big East Tournament and a chance to stay on a protected seed line.

Seton Hall is fighting for their bubble life. They're 9-8 in the league and just 16-12 overall and struggling to remain in the conversation. Their WAB is the wrong side of 0, but they're 5-11 in the top 2 quads and only have 1 bad loss. With 3 Big East games left and at least one in the league tournament, the opportunity is there if they can catch a hot streak.

From now until Selection Sunday, I'd submit that the most important thing for Xavier is Freemantle's health. If they can get Zach back and up to speed, they can punch with anyone. Who they'll have to face to move on in March will depend on what results they can scrape together while they wait to get Freemantle healthy.

Team fingerprint

Seton Hall’s offense is really bad. In conference play they are worst in the Big East in turnovers, blocked shots, and non steal (throw away) turnovers. When they do get shots off, they tend not to make them. The Pirates are 260th in the nation in three point shooting and 251st in two point shooting. Throw in 304th in free throw shooting and you get a team that really struggles to score. Hall has scored more than a point per possession once in February and in only seven of 17 conference games.

Seton Hall is on the edge of the bubble, though, because their defense is incredible. In conference play they are second only to Creighton in defensive efficiency. Three point defense isn’t really a thing, but Seton Hall hasn’t been beaten from deep by much anyone this year. That’s in large part due to how good they are defending shots inside the arc, specifically by blocking them, and forcing turnovers. You just aren’t going to get many good shots against this team.


Starting matchups
Kadary Richmond Point Guard Souley Boum
Junior Class Senior
6'6", 210 Measurements 6'3", 175
12.1/5.2/0.8 Game line 16.3/4/4.6
46.2/33.3/70.5 Shooting line 45.5/41.1/86.5
Richmond is going to be a game time decision with a back injury tonight. He's effective on small sample from deep, a great assist man, a good defender, and a wretched shooter inside the arc.
Al-Amir Dawes Shooting Guard Adam Kunkel
Senior Class Senior
6'2", 180 Measurements 6'4", 185
15.9/4.6/2.6 Game line 10.2/2.6/3.1
42.4/36.3/85.4 Shooting line 45.8/39.3/84
Dawes will be the point man if Richmand can't go. In comparable sample he is somehow shooting worse inside the arc than outside it. If he plays a lot, the Pirates will turn the ball over more.
Femi Odukale Small Forward Colby Jones
Junior Class Junior
6'6", 205 Measurements 6'6", 205
4.8/1.7/0.9 Game line 14.6/8/2
37.7/21.8/95.2 Shooting line 52.6/41.2/69.1
Odukale is a good defender but not much for offense. He's a poor shooter who doesn't really pick his spots. He'll get on the defensive glass a bit, but he's out there to defend.
KC Ndefo Power Forward Jerome Hunter
Senior Class Senior
6'7", 206 Measurements 6'8", 215
10.1/5/1.5 Game line 7.1/4.1/1.1
44.6/33.3/91.8 Shooting line 58.5/16.7/70.9
Take Jerome Hunter and make him really good at blocking shots instead of rebounding. Ndefo is an effort guy and an excellent defender. He is very effective inside the arc, but he turns the ball over nearly a quarter of the time he touches it.
Tyrese Samuel Center Jack Nunge
Senior Class Senior
6'10", 235 Measurements 7'0" 245
15.7/6.7/1.4 Game line 14.5/5.1/4.7
50/34.9/77.7 Shooting line 50.3/39.1/65.9
By this point you know this part: Samuel is an excellent defender, just like all the Pirates on this chart. He's also the most effective offensive player on the team and does very good work around the rim.


Seton Hall gets, or got, a lot of minutes from the bench. Dre Davis is out though, and he was providing a lot of that. Jamir Harris is a 6-2 backup guard who has taken on a lot of that time. Harris is the worst player on the team in terms of offensive efficiency and fancies himself a three point shooter despite shooting 22.6% on 93 attempts. Tray Jackson is the 6-10 backup to Samuel and Ndefo and has acquitted himself well on the offensive end while slapping everyone he sees on defense. The only other sure thing off the Pirates bench will be Tae Davis. He’s a 6-9 freshman who is struggling to find his feet on offense, except on the glass, but, stop me if you’ve heard this before, is a great defender.

Three questions

- How long until Zach Freemantle is back? As Joel pointed out above, X has been reasonably good without their senior big man. They are, however, much better with him. There has been no update on his availability yet, but X needed him to the tune of 23/9/3 to beat Seton Hall at home.

- Can Xavier get any depth? Des Claude should be back to his dynamic best for this game. That makes six. Kyky Tandy will be limited at the very best. Cesare Edwards just cannot get right on defense. Someone needs to step up and make their name. X can’t do this with six guys.

- Can Jerome Hunter keep grabbing his moment? Seton Hall has a great defense, but they can be had on the offensive glass. The hour’s come, and the man? Hunter is a monster on the offensive glass and has been running a diesel engine recently. KC Ndefo gets a lot of pub for being a good small body power forward. Xavier has one of their own.

Three keys

- Push the pace: Yep, with six guys. Beating Seton Hall’s defense when it is set is really hard to do. Beating any team in transition is easier. The transition three pointer is the best three pointer available in the game. X can look to shoot early and often, or they can prepare for a battle.

- Swarm the post: Seton Hall doesn’t shoot the three well. Tyrese Samuel is a good scorer in the past, as is Ndefo. Tray Jackson isn’t half bad either. Watch for Xavier’s guards to dig hard against the Pirates post men early on catches. Running Hunter off Ndefo is a bad idea, though, because he will get to the glass. Colby Jones could be key on making sure trips are one and done.

- Seal the deal: Xavier is in the tournament barring some streak of 30 point losses. A win here, though, would cement them as a team in the running for a protected pick. The difference in staying on the four line and dropping to the six is significant. Sweet 16 runs start with a team you can beat in the first round. That line could mean the difference between Utah Valley (projected 13 seed) or West Virginia (projected 11 seed) to start things.