Seton Hall must shake Butler bug to keep rolling

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Seton Hall will have a chance to build momentum and notch a résumé-building win on Wednesday night when they host No. 11 Butler.

Coming off a reassuring win over St. John’s, believe it or not, Seton Hall (13-6, 3-4) is in a very similar place to where they were a year ago despite recent doom and gloom.

Last January, the Hall beat Marquette and DePaul to start conference play before losing four of five — a skid that was also ended by definitively beating St. John’s at home, though that win brought Seton Hall to 4-4.

“Right now I think we have the exact same record we had last year at this point, we’re in the exact same spot,” said Kevin Willard when asked if the St. John’s game was a must-win.

“I think the difference last year was we hadn’t played as many road games. We’ve already played four road games and two of the hardest ones, Creighton and ‘Nova. We’re right where we want to be. We didn’t have any panic, I wasn’t worried, it’s just a matter of you gotta win your home games. You’re going to have to [win] on the road at some point and play better on the road.”

Willard’s closing remark reinforces the importance of Seton Hall’s next three games, a stretch that begins with Butler and is followed up by road games at Xavier and then Georgetown. A 2-1 outcome heading into a homestand that features four of five games at Prudential Center would certainly be a win in most books.

That said, No. 11 Butler will be a tall order considering their dominance over the Pirates and Kevin Willard.

Having never met outside of league play, Seton Hall is 1-6 against the Bulldogs since they joined the conference while no one on the Pirates’ roster has ever registered a win against them; the current junior class is 0-4.

Butler has won by an average of 10 points over their six wins with Seton Hall’s lone victory coming in an ugly 51-50 first round slugfest in the Big East tournament three seasons ago when the Pirates reached the semi-final.

Led by Kelan Martin (16.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg), senior forward Andrew Chrabascz (11 ppg, 5 rpg, 2.8 apg) and surprise freshman guard Kamar Baldwin (10.1 ppg), Butler has lost a few head-scratchers but has sunk the likes of Villanova, Utah, Arizona, Northwestern, Indiana and Xavier on their way to an impressive 17-3 (6-2) record.

“I think Chris [Holtmann] is doing as good of a job as anyone in the country,” gushed Willard of Butler.

“I have so much respect for the way he runs his program, for the kids he has in his program. The kid Baldwin is playing phenomenal. Kethan Savage, we played against him here against GW a couple years ago, I knew what a great addition he would be. The big guys that no one talks about, [Tyler] Wideman and [Andrew] Chrabascz, no one talks about those two kids for some reason, I don’t know why. I think they’re as valuable as any big guys in the league … And obviously you have one of the best players not in the conference but in the country in Kelan Martin. They’re a huge test.”

If Seton Hall wants to throw down a spike strip to disrupt the Bulldogs, an aggressive defensive approach may help: Only three teams turn it over less than Butler, who play at a methodical tempo that ranks 292nd in the country.

As Willard alluded to, Angel Delgado (14.7 ppg, 12.4 rpg) will be up against a much more respectable front court than St. John’s, one which also has a deep threat to keep an eye on in Chrabascz (16-40, 40%). Kevin Willard noted on Sunday that he has been tinkering with plugging Mike Nzei in at the ‘five’, so keep an eye on that too.

This game presents not only a chance for a win that will hold weight on Selection Sunday, but it also eases up on any pressure heading into the two road games at Xavier and Georgetown.

KenPom says: No. 15 Butler 73, No. 54 Seton Hall 70 (61%)

Series history (SH 1-6)

March 2, 2016, Butler 85, SETON HALL 78, Indianapolis, IN
Feb. 10, 2016, Butler 81, SETON HALL 75, Newark, N.J.
Jan. 25, 2015, Butler 77, SETON HALL 57, Indianapolis, IN
Jan. 13, 2015, Butler 79, SETON HALL 75 (ot), Newark, N.J.
March 12, 2014, SETON HALL 51, Butler 50, New York, N.Y.
March 8, 2014, Butler 71, SETON HALL 54, Indianapolis, IN
Jan. 29, 2014, Butler 64, SETON HALL 57, Newark, N.J.

Projected Butler starters:
PG – Tyler Lewis
G – Kamar Baldwin
G/F – Kelan Martin
F – Andrew Chrabascz
F – Tyler Wideman

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

When: 830et, Wednesday
TV: FOX Sports 1
Radio: AM 970 (Gary Cohen & Dave Popkin), SIRIUS 137 / XM 380
Opening line: Seton Hall +1.5