Gut-check time for Seton Hall at No. 1 Villanova

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Seton Hall must dig deep to avoid another embarrassment when they visit top-ranked Villanova at the Pavilion on Monday night.

Just two days after dropping their second straight game to Providence after falling behind 16 early in what Kevin Willard blasted as an “embarrassing” effort from his guys, Seton Hall is primed for their annual buzz-saw appointment at Villanova.

Playing in a venue they haven’t won at since 1993-94 — a 14-game losing streak that includes an average loss by 14.6 points with just four losses by single digits — Seton Hall has their work cut out against the defending national champion, top-five ranked Wildcats.

And just for good measure: they haven’t lost at the Pavilion since February 3rd of 2013, an incredible 46-game win streak; Villanova has won at the Pavilion by an average of 25 points this season.

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Now that we’ve established the historical deck that is stacked against Seton Hall, it’s time to focus on the 17-1 (5-1) Wildcats, who have lost just once since being toppled by the Pirates at the Garden last March.

Statistically sound as ever across the board, Villanova is third in offensive efficiency and 21st in defensive efficiency while playing at a cool tempo that ranks 315th in the land. The Wildcats rely pretty heavily on their outside shooting and wield about five different threats from the perimeter including four of their starters.

Jalen Brunson (14 ppg, 4 apg) has stepped in to replace Ryan Arcidiacono while redshirt freshman Donte Divincenzo (7.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg) has occupied Brunson’s role of coming off the bench while Phil Booth is sidelined with a knee injury. Up front, Fordham transfer Eric Paschall (7.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg) has provided an instant impact alongside Darryl Reynolds (5.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg) to make up for the loss of big man Daniel Ochefu; elsewhere, Villanova remains unchanged from their title run with guard Josh Hart (19.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.3 spg) and versatile forward Kris Jenkins (13.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg) combining to average 33 ppg.

Seton Hall will have to be firing on all cylinders and then some tonight to just keep a respectable pace and hang around with Villanova, let alone win.

If you’re hoping for a miracle, Willard’s team will have to achieve the following three things to have a chance.

Three keys to (a miraculous) victory

Free throws and turnovers will have to be cleaned up. Seton Hall took down Nova in the title game without doing it (13 TOs; 9-18 FTM), but that was a much better defensive team. A turnover rate (20.1%) that ranks 254th in the nation along with a free-throw percentage of 61% (343rd) is cancelling out any offensive rebounding the Pirates do. Both areas need to fine-tuned tonight.

Seton Hall must avoid prolonged offensive droughts, especially at the beginning of the game. A five-minute drought allowed Providence to build their 16-point first half lead and a similar scoring black hole provided Marquette the opportunity to build an early 22-8 lead earlier this week. An significant early deficits will probably spell trouble at the Pavilion; scoring in transition against a team that wants to play slower may be key for the Hall to stave off droughts.

Willard’s big three horses will need to be clicking tonight, or Mike Nzei/Myles Powell will need to make a splash off the bench. Seton Hall can’t afford an off-night from any of Khadeen Carrington, Angel Delgado and Desi Rodriguez with such inconsistent scoring coming from outside of that trio. Someone like Nzei, Powell or Madison Jones must step up if the Hall is really going to threaten; Ish Sanogo and Derrick Gordon combined for 18 at the Garden. We’ll see if Willard’s threat to change things up factors in here.

KenPom says: No. 4 Villanova 78, No. 53 Seton Hall 63 (9%)

Last 10 meetings (SH 4-6; 36-61 all-time — most-played opp. since 1949-50)

March 12, 2016, Seton Hall 69, Villanova 67, New York, N.Y.
Jan. 20, 2016, Villanova 72, Seton Hall 71, Newark, N.J.
Jan. 6, 2016, Villanova 72, Seton Hall 63, Villanova, Pa.
Feb. 13, 2015, Villanova 80, Seton Hall 54, Villanova, Pa.
Jan. 3, 2015, Seton Hall 66, Villanova 61 (ot), Newark, N.J.
March 13, 2014, Seton Hall 64, Villanova 63, New York, N.Y.
Feb. 7, 2014, Villanova 70, Seton Hall 53, Villanova, Pa.
Jan. 8, 2014, Villanova 83, Seton Hall 67, Newark, N.J.
Feb. 25, 2013, Seton Hall 66, Villanova 65, Newark, N.J.
Jan. 18, 2012, Villanova 84, Seton Hall 76, Villanova, Pa.

Projected Villanova starters
PG – Jalen Brunson
G – Josh Hart
G/F – Mikal Bridges
F – Kris Jenkins
F – Darryl Reynolds

Projected Seton Hall starters
PG – Madison Jones
G – Khadeen Carrington
F – Desi Rodriguez
F – Ish Sanogo
F – Angel Delgado

When: Monday, 630ET
TV: FOX Sports 1
Radio: AM970 (Gary Cohen & Dave Popkin)
Opening line: Seton Hall +14