Preview: Rhode Island first up for No. 20 Seton Hall as schedule heats up

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Starting with a Thanksgiving Day clash against Rhode Island in a few hours, No. 20 Seton Hall is digging into the main course of their non-conference schedule.

The Hall’s impressive line-up was applauded prior to the season starting, and the thick of the schedule is now upon us after a 19.25-point average margin of victory over the first four games.

NJIT and perhaps Fairleigh Dickinson will be among Seton Hall’s four-worst opponents this season while Indiana is panning out to be weaker than first thought, but the upcoming series of games remain ripe for the Pirates to impress.

A win tonight will more likely than not yield a meeting with 26th-ranked Virginia on Friday night (or Vanderbilt with a loss) prior to Seton Hall shifting their focus to a different New York City borough when they take on 27th-ranked Texas Tech at Madison Square Garden.

But the gauntlet of top-30 opponents doesn’t stop there as the Hall must travel to No. 19 Louisville next Sunday before a battle-tested VCU outfit comes to Newark days later.

When the dust settles, Seton Hall should have three shots to pick up resume wins away from home, and two opponents not to be overlooked. We’ll know a lot more about this seasoned group come December 10th.

On the immediate horizon, Dan Hurley’s Rhode Island (2-1) is reeling ever so slightly after losing fifth-year senior E.C. Matthews to a wrist injury in a loss at Nevada; Rhodie was ranked just outside the top-25 to start the season.

Fellow senior Stanford Robinson (11 ppg, 2.3 apg) should see an expanded role in Matthews’ place as the Rams look to build off a 88-66 bounce-back win over Holy Cross last Sunday. Wing Jared Terrell (18.3 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 apg) — another senior — leads his team in scoring and will likely be hounded by Ish Sanogo & Co. all night.

Seton Hall has not met Rhode Island since a 60-55 win in 2012 when Gene Teague scored 21 and pulled in 9 rebounds at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. The last time the two schools met on a home floor, Rhode Island head coach Jim Baron called Andre Barrett the best point guard in the nation after he registered 23 points and 12 assists in a 79-67 win at the Meadowlands.

Despite a mere four-point Vegas spread, many Seton Hall fans are optimistic about their chances due to the E.C. Matthews injury and subsequent surprise loss.

But as we’ve seen in recent years with bracketed non-conference events, there is a fine margin between taking care of business and taking on Virginia tomorrow evening, and losing to Rhode Island prior to seeing Vanderbilt.

Three things to watch

The Senior Battle(s). Of course you’ve heard about Seton Hall’s senior class, but Rhode Island is statistically more-senior, at least according to KenPom’s experience rating. Willard’s roster ranks 126th in experience while Dan Hurley’s group – which includes five seniors in the main rotation – sits 24th. This is in stark contrast to some of the greenhorn teams which have come to town over the Hall’s first four games.

Angel Delgado against a smaller front court. Assuming the big man is back from a “calf injury” that provoked Willard to sit him for the final 18 minutes of the NJIT game, Delgado will be operating against one of the smaller front courts he will see this season. Rhode Island ranks 307th in average height and Hurley typically only has one guy 6-foot-7 or taller on the court at a time. This will play more of a factor if/when the Rams try to double Angel, leaving much smaller defenders on whoever is manning the ‘four’ and Desi Rodriguez at the ‘three’. 

A better first 20 minutes. Although this game is set to tip just after or during when the east coast will be sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner, the team will be having their holiday dinner on Sunday and will have no excuse for another tryptophan-inspired start. Rhode Island is +5 in first halves this year, suggesting a weakness, while Seton Hall has been leading by an average of four points (+16) after the first ten minutes this season.

Projected Rhode Island starters:
PG – Jeff Dowtin
G – Jarvis Garrett
G – Stanford Robinson
G/F – Jared Terrell
F – Andre Berry

Projected Seton Hall starters:
PG – Khadeen Carrington
2G – Myles Powell
F – Desi Rodriguez
F – Mike Nzei
C – Angel Delgado

TV: ESPNU, 6ET
Radio: AM970
Opening line: Seton Hall -4
Series: SH 6-1