In the midst of a seven-game winning streak and now sniffing around the Associated Press Top 25 poll, Seton Hall (12-2, 2-0) travels to the hallowed on-campus halls of the Pavilion on Wednesday night for a grueling litmus test against No. 11 Villanova (12-2, 2-0).
Perhaps the most unique moment after Seton Hall’s 78-74 win over DePaul on Saturday wasn’t Kevin Willard’s stern answers regarding benched starter Desi Rodriguez — the “opportunity could be his [Veer Singh’s] for a while.” insists Willard.
It was when Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press asked Ismael Sanogo how old he was after the sophomore described the Pavilion as a tough place to play three times in one sentence.
“19,” replied a semi-confused Sanogo.
“Seton Hall hasn’t won there in 22 years. Tough place to play,” cautioned Carino.
Ish: “Oh…[laughs]. I mean, there’s time for change.”
If Seton Hall is going to reverse a drought that has lasted since Bryan Caver scored 21 points against Kerry Kittles in February of ‘94, it’s going to take a special rebound from last year’s 80-54 embarrassment that was brought to national attention after Sterling Gibbs’ forearm blow.
“Yeah, they’re really good… [laughs]. They’re really, really good,” said Kevin Willard of Villanova after his team’s win on Saturday over DePaul. “Their one loss to Oklahoma, they didn’t play well in Hawaii, and then their loss at Virginia… Until someone knocks them off, in my opinion it’s Villanova and Xavier [as best teams in the league], they’re really good.”
It’s not easy to be better than a 33-3 team like the Cats were last season, but Villanova might be just that this year. Jay Wright has lost guard Darrun Hilliard and forward JayVaughn Pinkston to graduation as well as Dylan Ennis (9.9 ppg, 3.5 apg) to a transfer to Oregon, but returns everyone else along with a big boost in freshman phenom guard Jalen Brunson and freshman wing Mikal Bridges.
Top-25 in ten major KenPom statistical categories and ranked No. 1 overall, Villanova is the usual highly-efficient and well-rounded team that everyone has come to expect from a Jay Wright coached bunch. That said, one statistical quirk to note is the team’s 229th-best shooting percentage from beyond the arc and top-ranked percentage from within it.
While that does detract from the Nova stereotype (the Cats are still 6th in offensive efficiency), Villanova is 6th in 3PA:FGA ratio and 55th in percentage of points coming from beyond the arc. So yes, with Ryan Arcidiacono (28-73, 38%) and Josh Hart (26-66, 39%) leading the charge, this is still that dangerous perimeter team you’re picturing (they’re just better from inside it now too); Nova canned 13-of-25 from downtown in their blowout of Xavier last week.
“We have to play defense,” stressed Isaiah Whitehead when asked on Saturday about Villanova. “They’re a great shooting team. If we defend the three-point line, we should be in great shape to be with them down the stretch … If you stop them from scoring, there’s nothing the crowd can do. If you stop them from scoring, the crowd doesn’t scream. If you stop them from scoring, we get out in transition and get easy buckets.”
Senior Derrick Gordon compared it to another Wichita State-like game, so in other words a type of game that he personally talked about over a month prior to tip. Gordon and Ish Sanogo’s respective defensive skill-sets will need to be at-the-ready against a Nova team that has four guys averaging over 9.8 ppg.
As Willard alluded to, outside of losses to two top-five teams, Villanova has won their other 12 games by an average margin of 23.75 points.
Jumping back to Desi Rodriguez, I don’t know what Willard will do and I doubt many will until close to tip (why help Nova out?), but I’d personally start a senior in Gordon and bring Desi in off the bench. That’s assuming they’ve made amends, etc. Veer Singh has had his moments but doesn’t look to be ready for the moment… like a daunting game at a top-15 team.
Last 10 meetings (VU 7-3)
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.
Feb. 15, 2011, Villanova 60, SETON HALL 57, Newark, N.J.
Feb. 2, 2010, Villanova 81, SETON HALL 71, Villanova, Pa.
Jan 6, 2009, Villanova 89, SETON HALL 85 (ot), Newark, N.J.
KenPom says: No. 2 Villanova 76, No. 42 Seton Hall 63 (10%)
Projected Villanova starters:
PG - Ryan Arcidiacono (12.9 ppg, 4.6 apg)
G - Jalen Brunson (11.7 ppg, 3 apg)
G - Josh Hart (15.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg)
F - Kris Jenkins (9.8 ppg, 3 rpg)
C - Daniel Ochefu (10.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg)
Projected Seton Hall starters:
PG - Isaiah Whitehead (15.1 ppg, 4.6 apg)
G - Khadeen Carrington (13.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.6 apg)
G - Derrick Gordon (8 ppg, 2.9 rpg)
F - Ismael Sanogo (5.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg)
F - Angel Delgado (9.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg)
When: 7pm, Wednesday
TV: FOX Sports 1
Radio: 970 AM
Opening line: Seton Hall +14.5