Winners of four straight, sitting third in the Big East and in the hunt for a ranking, Seton Hall (17-6, 7-4) hosts a Butler (16-7, 5-6) team that was once ranked before getting off to a slow start in league play.
Coming in at 31st in the latest Coaches and AP polls, the Hall is trying to turn around a rough 1-4 run of games against the Bulldogs since they joined the Big East. If they’re able to do so, that’ll be five-straight in the conference. No Pirate team has won five league games in a row since 2009 and that streak has an asterisk: Rutgers (2x), DePaul and St. John’s were all sub-100 teams.
Chris Holtmann’s guys scored close to 80 in both wins last season but they’ll be going up against a much tougher defensive bunch in blue that have jumped to 19th in defensive efficiency and 16th in effective field goal defense (eFG%) after a good showing against Georgetown on Saturday night.
Still, Willard isn’t content.
“I’m going to be a little critical — I don’t think we’re as good defensively as we need to be or can be,” said the Pirate boss after his team held Georgetown to 61 and .87 points per possession, their second lowest total this season.
“We’re throwing some zone in there at times, I think we’ve got to get better at zone. If you’re going to play guys [35 MPG] it’s a good chance to give them a break. I think we played 3 possessions of zone tonight and again we gave up 13 offensive rebounds; we need to get better on the defensive boards. Which we can, we’ve been focusing on it. Their guards did a good job of rebounding I thought, which hurt us early.”
It will be interesting but perhaps predictable how the Hall’s personnel this year matches up with Roosevelt Jones (14.5 ppg, 7 rpg, 4.9 apg), who is more of a bull than anything (Khadeen Carrington has described him as a linebacker), while leading scorer Kellen Dunham (16 ppg, 2.3 rpg) can of course shoot from deep (he has nearly double the 3PAs of any teammate) but also create. Sounds like a job for Derrick Gordon.
Up front, the battle between Angel Delgado, Ish Sanogo & Co. vs. Tyler Wideman and Kelan Martin will be a focal point too. Martin is averaging 22 ppg & 6.6 rpg over his last five while Delgado is on the same level with 16.5 ppg & 13.7 rpg over his last four — something has to give.
When in possession of the basketball, I’m looking to see how the Hall rebounds from a poor shooting effort against the Hoyas. Isaiah Whitehead was a few made jumpers away from having a great game while Veer Singh and Carrington were off the mark. Butler is good but not great across the KenPom spectrum defensively and could provide an opportunity for a more fluid game than what we saw Saturday.
The Bulldogs have won three of their last four after starting the Big East 3-6, although DePaul, St. John’s, and Marquette aren’t the toughest of the lot. Chris Holtmann seems to have picked up where Brandon Miller left off in terms of having the better of Willard anywhere but Madison Square Garden and will look to continue the program’s dominance and stay in the NCAA hunt along the way.
KenPom says: No. 30 Seton Hall 78, No. 40 Butler 72 (70%)
Series history (Butler 4-1):
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:
Roosevelt Jones (14.5 ppg, 7 rpg, 4.9 apg)
Kellen Dunham (16 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
Andrew Chrabascz (10.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
Kelan Martin (15.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg)
Tyler Wideman (8.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg)
Projected Seton Hall starters:
Isaiah Whitehead (16.2 ppg, 4.7 apg)
Khadeen Carrington (14 ppg, 2.6 apg)
Desi Rodriguez (11.5 ppg, 5 rpg)
Ismael Sanogo (4.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg)
Angel Delgado (10.5 ppg, 10.1 rpg)
Time: 6:30et, Wednesday
TV: FOX Sports 1
Radio: AM 970
Opening line: Seton Hall -3