NEW YORK — By time the clock strikes midnight (hopefully), we will know if Seton Hall will be playing for their second Big East Tournament title over the past four seasons.
No. 23 Marquette stands in Seton Hall’s way of some justified chest-thumping: two title appearances in four seasons to go along with four-straight N.C.A.A. bids is undeniably successful and should rightfully give the Pirates’ program a bump in national prestige.
Having dispatched the Golden Eagles not more than a week ago after Myles Powell put together one of the most inspired individual performances you will see, Seton Hall has a bit less prep work to do during a turnaround that falls short of 24 hours.
That win put a stamp on the Hall’s intention to make the Dance and did a lot to set up tonight’s clash.
Marquette finally snapped their four-game skid with a demolishing of St. John’s in the game prior to Seton Hall. Markus Howard dropped 30 and the Golden Eagles won by 32 in a game that resembled the first half of Georgetown for the final 10-15 minutes; St. John’s trailed by 10+ points for most of the 40.
Both KenPom and Vegas have Marquette by five points.
Using last night’s theme of two completely different halves of basketball, here are five reasons why Seton Hall will beat Marquette, and five reasons why they’ll lose.
Five reasons why the Pirates win
Seton Hall is playing better defense at the right time of the year. As featured in last night’s game story, I thought the Hall’s defensive effort was the key to stifling Georgetown. Tonight may be a similar tune.
You’ve got Myles Powell. The junior has now reached double figures in his last 11 games and if we’re to go by his first 20 minutes against the Hoyas, he can absolutely take over a game on both ends of the court. You’re never out of it with Myles on your side and he has some experience of doing big things at the Garden, see: Kentucky.
Secondary scoring is coming around. Myles Cale (14 pts, 4 rebs) was keeping pace with Powell before he put it in overdrive and Sandro Mamukelashvili (12 pts, 10 rebs) put together his second nice game in a row after a prolonged stretch of sub-par performances. You expect a certain level of production from more experienced guys like Quincy McKnight and Mike Nzei, so getting these two sophomore firing is a big plus.
Seton Hall taps into the better half of their offensive DNA. I don’t know why I saw some complaints about turnovers last night, because the Hall finished with just ten including just three during their finely-tuned first half of efficiency and stellar ball movement. Quincy McKnight coughed it up just twice (once very early on) and if anything, Myles Powell was more loosey-goosey with the rock in the second half than anyone. When Seton Hall is making threes like they did over the first 20, they can play with anyone.
A pair of logistics bode well for Seton Hall. First, they will surely be greeted with another royal blue dominant crowd tonight after featuring some home cooking in the final game of a four-game lineup on Thursday; they had way more support than past Kentucky and St. John’s games. Second, the team needs to do less homework for Marquette than usual since they played them last week and we all know how pivotal some of Kevin Willard’s prolonged prep time can prove. And a bonus third reason? Seton Hall is now 5-2 in Big East Tournament games when I sit in the press box compared to 0-2 when I’m behind the basket; I’m in the press box for this tournament.
Five reasons why the Pirates lose
When things go off-kilter offensively, the game can spiral. Using last night as an example in isolation is flawed since playing with such a large lead is a strong influence, but we know this team is prone to getting lost in the woods on offense. They can’t afford seven-minute droughts, 23-percent shooting in a half, and long stretches without knocking down a three if you want to feel comfortable about the outcome.
Markus Howard has been held in check for three of the four halves he’s faced Seton Hall — that can’t be sustained. He’s scored just 14 points and dished six assists in the 60 minutes played since his 18-point, five-assist first half in Milwaukee. Further, the game in Newark was the only the second time he’s been held to single digits this season to go along with an 8-pont showing against St. John’s at Carnesecca on New Year’s Day. Will Quincy McKnight’s recent foul trouble issues prevent him from working some magic again?
Seton Hall is coming off 20 minutes of… strange hoops, while Marquette picked up steam late in their game. Will that carry into tonight? It’s kind of like when a team rests all their players in the last week of a season while their playoff opponent can’t afford to do so and heads into the clash with some momentum. On a side note, Marquette gets the nod in this logistical category: they get at least three more hours of rest and were able to do some scouting of Seton Hall while doing so.
Myles Powell’s foot injury is actually something more severe than first thought. Before you label me a far-right conspiracy theorist, let’s journey down this rabbit hole of pessimism: once the adrenaline subsides and the lactic acid sets in, Powell’s foot, or ankle, or thigh, or whatever he banged up late against Georgetown stiffens up (or worse) and causes him to be less than 100-percent. It wouldn’t be the first time an injury was dismissed in public, although Powell didn’t show any signs of gimpiness post-game.
Taurean Thompson is in the dog house. Honestly, I was running out of things for the negative perspective, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to point out that the Syracuse transfer didn’t see the court against his former school’s archrival for the second time in a row and fourth time in nine games. After a nine-game January stretch where Thompson saw 12 minutes per game but Seton Hall went 3-6, the versatile forward was sidelined for Creighton due to a violation of team rules. From that game to present, also a nine game stretch, Thompson has played three minutes per game (I am including DNPs) and Seton Hall is 6-3. The Pirates are also 5-0 when he doesn’t see the court this season. Wait, maybe this should have been on the positive side of things…