Rubber match with Creighton awaits Seton Hall in Big East quarters

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Looking back at the past two months since Seton Hall was clobbered 82-67 at home by Creighton in a defeat that spawned worrying tremors, it’s amazing how much has transpired as the two schools gear up to clash in the 3-6 game late on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

While his impact is largely unknown to anyone outside of Seton Hall circles, Derrick Gordon quickly squashed any malcontent following the early January loss by calling a players-only meeting immediately after the game. The move has yielded a 10-4 record in Big East play since and has prompted Kevin Willard to deem Gordon the “biggest blessing in his life” because of what he’s done for this team off the court.

Seton Hall may be without Gordon on Thursday, which limits both their guard depth and ability to defend Creighton point guard Maurice Watson Jr. (14.5 ppg, 6.6 apg). Gordon has been limited in practice this week due to a head injury suffered in the second half against DePaul when he took the back of a Blue Demon’s head to his face during a rebound scrum.

Update: Gordon looks set to go after practicing on Wednesday. Per Jon Rothstein, it was a concussion.

His availability will be crucial as Watson, the heart of Greg McDermott’s offense and owner of the 9th-best assist rate in the nation, was able to score 13 and dish 14 assists in Newark but was then held to just 14 and 6 in Omaha; Creighton’s offensive efficiency is clearly contrasted between the two meetings.

In addition to the obvious importance of Seton Hall crowding the lane and playing strong defense, the production of their forwards – Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez & Ismael Sanogo – was a big reason why they lost in the first outing but won soundly at CenturyLink.

The trio put up a combined 39 points and 30 boards in Nebraska but just 17 and 14 in Newark. Let’s not forget how much of an impact the battle on the boards was in the second meeting.

Switching focus, Creighton has lost four of their last five but they’ve played fairly well including losses at Providence and Xavier by a combined nine points in their final two games.

Due to an RPI (97) that is double their KenPom rating (46), the Jays will need the conference title in order to go Dancing and can likely secure an NIT bid if they win on Thursday.

Big East Tournament overview

The Hall’s journey in New York begins as a top-three seed for the first time since 1992-93 when they last won the tournament with an unforgettable 103-70 drubbing of Syracuse in the final.

While it’s not fair to compare this Big East to past years, the other two times Seton Hall has been a top-three seed were 1988-89 and 1991-92. Good company to have, though they bowed out in the semis to Syracuse both times.

It will be interesting to see how well Kevin Willard is able to gameplan in a quick turnaround scenario, something that is safe to say hasn’t been his strength. There have been exceptions (see: Paradise Jam, 2013-14 Big East Tournament) but when coupled with a team that is largely inexperienced in such situations, schools like Xavier and Villanova get the nod in this department.

Last time I checked, Seton Hall have 9/1 odds (fourth-best) to win the title, meaning a $50 bet will pretty much finance a plane ticket to any NCAA regional destination.

My Big East Tournament predictions:

First round:
Georgetown > DePaul
Marquette > St. John’s

Quarters:
Villanova > Georgetown
Butler > Providence
Xavier > Marquette
Seton Hall > Creighton – my gut is actually telling me Creighton here…

Semis:
Butler > Villanova
Xavier > Seton Hall

Final:
Xavier > Butler

How far will Seton Hall make it in the Big East Tournament?

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Stay tuned for another primer/in-game thread to be posted Thursday afternoon.

  • Coach Mike

    Countdown has begun….rest up, put the kids to bed, grab a beer (or two) and enjoy the game Thursday night! Make your foul shots. Good job Chris!

    • VinBick

      Let’s get more Pirate Blue in the Garden than the colors of the other three teams tomorrow night . This is a home game for our team and fans. With so many trains available into Penn Station below the Garden, be there! How often do we get the opportunity to support our Alma Mater in such a great event? Tickets are available at StubHub. We can make it a real Garden Party.

      Go Pirates!

      • LBP

        That we will VinBick

        • VinBick

          Hey, if my seat ends up in the Creighton student section, look for an old, bald, fat guy with his blue Seton Hall hoodie getting beaten to a bloody pulp. Have my remains sent from Section 2 of the Garden to Ryan Funeral Home in Toms River for disposition after we beat them! Don’t bother interrupting the game, though.

          • LBP

            We will assure there is a 30 second time -out used

      • Only thing about the start time is that it makes the next day very rough for anyone who has to make it into the office. Luckily, I took the day off.

        Surely Seton Hall fans can spare a “personal” day for such an occasion.

        • PadrePirate

          Must be up at 6am on Friday back here in Orange. Won’t be there with you but following from home. GO HALL!

    • Might need a cup of coffee, too!

  • Andrew Herbst

    I have good vibes about tomorrow night. I think we’ll come out focused and ready to go. I think we can handle Watson after seeing him twice. Hopefully Delgado can get back to establishing himself in the paint.

    • JJer

      Good. Your vibes cancels out Chris’s gut.

      Wasn’t the last win against Creighton (wow, Swype recognized Creighton!) attributed to the tactical move of going under the screens for Watson (again, Swype got the name)? Not particularly Derrick’s D.

      • Andrew Herbst

        That was a huge key to the win. Also, our offense had great ball movement and were able to get open looks for 3.

      • Yes. Can dig the KW quote, but he did say (I think at the next home game) that they had made that tactical switch. More about crowding the lane.

    • PadrePirate

      I think that is one of the keys to a W tomorrow, AD needs to get in a groove. Hope KW includes early feeds to Desi and Angel in his game plan.

      • Andrew Herbst

        Agreed. We have to establish an inside game.

  • WilponsStinkLessNow

    I like how the bracket shaped up with Seton Hall on the opposite side of Butler and Villanova — the only two conference teams they haven’t beaten this season. It could be an epic BE Championship revenge game. I like our chances of taking this thing.

    One thing I worry about is the guys being over-hyped and not playing well in the Garden tomorrow night, but I think they learned that lesson against the Johnnies last month.

  • LBP

    Hall is going wire to wire. I have no doubts about this–let’s have a Garden Party tomorrow

  • Congrats to Kevin Willard on Co-Coach of the Year. Amazing what 365 days can do.

    Kris Dunn gets POTY, to no surprise.

    • WilponsStinkLessNow

      Great player, but Dunn wasn’t even the best player on his team this year.

      • Agree. Certainly not the last 2/3rds of BE

      • LBP

        Kris was media darling by foregoing Pro contract–actually may help the Hall should Whitehead follow his example– like Dunn a lot but he was not BE Player of the Year

        • PadrePirate

          Bentil was the one who carried his team toward end of season.

          I would have picked Hart or Bentil

    • hallstorm

      Yeah big congrats to Williard as coach of the year. Up until about 2 months ago, I would never think I would be able to include all those words in the same sentence on a positive note, but the defensive intensity this year has been the best i can remember in a long time.

    • fouline

      I have to admit I nearly choked on my breakfast when I read that Willard was named co-coach(gesundheit) of the year. I guess since he was savagely criticized for the last 5 1/2 years – and rightly so for torturing the team and the fans – he deserves credit for the winning. And I’m also happy that he gave credit to the team. When the BE schedule started they took over their own fate- like a jury nullifying a judge’s orders – and played with energy and commitment. Good luck tonight.

  • Good news: Derrick Gordon looks set to go. Bad news is that it was a concussion, at least according to Jon Rothstein

    https://twitter.com/JonRothstein/status/707661354539347968

  • Initially forgot to link it in the preview because I didn’t remember that I wrote it, but Seton Hall winning the battle on the glass was a big reason they won at Creighton:

    http://shuhoops.com/seton-hall-basketball/kenpom-analysis-shaping-kevin-willards-game-planning/

    Also, my game recap would be related reading: http://shuhoops.com/seton-hall-basketball/seton-hall-gets-revenge-with-tough-75-65-win-on-road-at-creighton/

  • LBP

    Refs are killing the first two games. Hope this does not carry over

  • jfp1992

    I hope the last time they played at MSG left a bad taste in their mouths and they start out strong. Get those jitters out of the way in warm-ups.

  • Joe Schmoe

    Butler can catch an early flight home if they hurry!

    • Matty P

      Should be interesting for butler on the bubble. They needed at least one win to lock them into the tournament. Either way it helps the pirates since they’ve always given them trouble.

    • PadrePirate

      Can’t say that I’m sad to see them go!! But was hoping to beat them in the finals

  • LBP

    If Refs let Hall play should murder em