Round of 32 Preview: All on the line for Seton Hall in prime time clash with Kansas

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WICHITA — Waking up today, this is the reality for Seton Hall basketball: either they will upset Kansas tonight, or this senior class will have played its final minutes in Pirate blue. Either way, it’s going to be an emotional roller coaster. 

Tonight will be the culmination of four years of blood, sweat, and tears for Seton Hall’s hard-working seniors, and a similar combination of sweat, tears, and cheers for their fans.

It’s all on the line as the Hall goes up against one of the blue blood programs in the arena of college hoops. Win or go home.

But after 16-seed UMBC’s improbable upset of Virginia last night, combined with a four-point spread from Vegas for this one, the feeling is that anything can happen tonight.

Because it can. Why not?

Intimidating road tests at Creighton, the Pavilion, and Butler over the course of four years. A Big East Tournament final. Four games against one-seeds during the regular season.

Seton Hall is built for this type of game and there’s a sense that these guys won’t be phased by a sellout crowd of 15,004 that will be mostly Kansas faithful.

There have been four Sweet Sixteen trips in Seton Hall’s history — 1989, 1991, 1992 — with the latest coming in 2000 when associate head coach Shaheen Holloway was a senior point guard, playing the role that Khadeen Carrington will tonight.

Carrington and his teammates — not just the seniors — have a chance tonight to elevate their status to that echelon of Seton Hall greats.

Buckle up.

Three Keys to Victory

Much like the N.C. State game, Seton Hall will need to be diligent on the perimeter. They started shaky, but N.C. State ultimately went a pedestrian 11-of-30 from deep, as the Hall warmed up to the task. They may not be afforded the same leeway against Kansas, as the Jayhawks shoot it at a 40.3-percent clip, good for tenth in the country while their outside shooting accounts for 37-percent of their points, which ranks 45th; Kansas’ one through four spots can light it up from deep.

On the flip side, it won’t hurt if Seton Hall fires back from outside, specifically Myles Powell. Seton Hall failed to make a three in the second half of their first round game en route to a 7-of-21 mark that included Powell missing six of his seven attempts.

Handling the interior battle. A lot of this chess match will depend on whether Udoka Azubuike is in the game or not, so let’s explore both possibilities. When he’s on the bench, which will happen more often than not, Seton Hall needs to get Angel Delgado more touches in the post. Penn forward AJ Brodeur is certainly a nifty player in the paint, but he was eating Kansas’ Azubuike-less interior up, which was giving him a ton of space, presumably because they respected Penn’s outside shooting. 

As such, if Powell & Co. can get it going, it will put Kansas in a pickle as they are likely to double team Delgado. It could be a big assist day for the Dominican native if all goes according to plan.

On defense, it will be a slippery slope for Seton Hall, who will try to defend the perimeter, which may leave Delgado exposed down low. That shouldn’t be a huge issue if Azubuike is out, but as Kevin Willard said yesterday, Kansas is a different team when he is on the floor and will look to work through him. Perhaps some of Seton Hall’s most effective defending will come if they can exploit Kansas on the offensive glass, one of their weaknesses, which will cut down on fast breaks and take the game to their end of the court.

Playing in front of a home crowd will make it extra important to control tempo. Penn did a good job of this over the opening 15 minutes and it left the biased crowd expressing more groans than cheers. For Seton Hall, Khadeen Carrington has to be the key to controlling tempo as he will be in the driver’s seat most of the time. 

Carrington put on an Andre Barrett-esque performance against N.C. State and will be asked to do it again while matched up with one of the country’s best guards in Devonte’ Graham. If the Brooklyn native can dig deep and at least mostly negate Graham’s production, that will be a huge win for Seton Hall. As Carrington put it: shutting down Kansas’ lead guard will be like “cutting off the head of the snake.”

Pre-game reading:

NY POST: Khadeen Carrington’s season of tests is now getting its biggest one

Asbury Park Press: In-depth Kansas Scouting Report

SHUHoops: Seton Hall relaxed but focused while gearing up for Kansas

KenPom says: No. 10 Kansas 80, No. 25 Seton Hall 76 (37%)

Series History: 1-1 SH — Seton Hall beat Kansas in the ’88-89 Great Alaska Shootout and then lost in the Maui Invitational to a Jayhawks team ranked fourth in ’01-02

Projected Kansas starters
PG – Devonte’ Graham (17.6 ppg, 7.4 apg)
G – Malik Newman (13 ppg, 4.9 rpg)
G/F – Lagerald Vick (12.1 ppg 4.9 rpg)
F – Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (15 ppg, 4 rpg, 2.6 apg)
F – Mitch Lightfoot (4 ppg, 3.2 rpg)

Projected Seton Hall starters
PG – Khadeen Carrington
G – Myles Powell
F – Myles Cale
F – Mike Nzei
F – Angel Delgado

TV: 7:10ET, TBS
Radio: AM970
Opening line: Seton Hall +4

Please use this post for all in-game and immediate post-game discussion.