Seton Hall can take the next step with a win over No. 5 Xavier on Senior Day

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If Seton Hall (20-7, 10-5) wants to leave the bubble behind them and match their highest regular season win total since the 1992-93 season in which they won the Big East Tournament, they can do just that with a massive win over fifth-ranked Xavier (25-3, 13-3) on Senior Day.

Victorious in seven of their last eight games since losing to the Musketeers on the road in late January, Seton Hall has a chance to improve upon their current projected NCAA seed of 9 and knock off a school ranked in the top-five for the second time in as many seasons and fifth time ever; Xavier came into this week fifth and knocked off top-ranked Villanova mid-week.

The Hall played Xavier closely for 30 minutes at the Cintas Center but an inefficient Isaiah Whitehead and superior Musketeer forward depth proved to be the difference as Chris Mack’s team used a 21-7 second half run and 40-12 bench point advantage to leave Seton Hall in the dust after they trailed 50-49 at the under-16 timeout.

Instead of a sold out Cintas Center, Seton Hall will now have the edge of playing in front of a packed Prudential Center crowd for Senior Day, which was officially declared a sell out mid-day on Friday. The lone senior being recognized is fifth-year graduate transfer Derrick Gordon (8 ppg, 3.4 rpg), who has been an intangible difference-maker on and off the court since joining the program last spring.

“I can’t say enough good things about DG, I can probably go on for about seven hours,” said an emotional Kevin Willard on Thursday night. “He’s such a pleasure to be around, he’s such a good person, he’s such a good teammate. He’s unselfish, he’s sacrificed his role this year for the betterment of the team. I’ve been very blessed that I’ve been able to coach him, I think we’re all very blessed to have him as a teammate.”

Fresh off his 13th double-double of the season, Angel Delgado (10.2 ppg, 9.8 rpg) will need to stay out of foul trouble after he left his younger forward counterparts exposed to a talented Xavier forward trio of Jalen Reynolds (9.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg), James Farr (10 ppg, 8 rpg) and Sean O`Mara (3.4 ppg, 1.8 rpg) in the first meeting; Farr posted 25 points and 15 boards off the bench.

“When they have Farr and Reynolds in there, they’re such a great rebounding team and it makes it really hard to double because they work off each other so well,” said Willard of Xavier’s front court. “So I would say those two keys are huge because they got a lot of easy buckets and Farr and Reynolds really took us to the woodshed [in the first meeting].”

Isaiah Whitehead has played a lot better since his pedestrian 6-of-20 shooting performance in Cincinnati that included five assists and five turnovers, indicating that Seton Hall can improve upon their 76-point output in the first meeting if he receives scoring support from teammates.

“That’s where he has matured. In the past it was about him, the reason why he’s playing so well: It’s no longer about him, he understands it’s about the team,” said Willard of his lead guard. “He’s growing into a point guard.”

One member of Whitehead’s supporting cast that is primed to help out is high school teammate Desi Rodriguez (12.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg), who is a streaky scorer and is averaging 17.5 ppg and 5.5 rpg over his last four including a 24-point career high against St. John’s that snapped a previous best of 21 set against Xavier in January.

We can be sure that defense has been an area of emphasis for Seton Hall over the past few days despite allowing just 59 ppg over their last three games. Xavier scored 1.14 points per possession and 84 in total last month in an uncharacteristically bad defensive outing for the Hall that was largely due to the mismatch in the paint but a product of mental lapses as well.

Over their last four games, Chris Mack’s team is playing as well as they have all season as seen by their 13.3 point average margin of victory, making a feel-good win on Senior Day that much tougher. Every Musketeer is doing their share and Mack’s ability to go at least seven guys deep is certainly a strength; sixth-man JP Macura is averaging 13.2 ppg and 2.8 apg over his last four.

Xavier will be looking to maintain their strong push for a 1-seed in the NCAA tournament with a win while upset-minded Seton Hall won’t suffer much from a loss but can ease even more pressure off themselves with a third straight win over the Musketeers in Newark. Xavier is 0-5 on the road against Seton Hall, dating back to 1949.

Feel free to use this post for all post-game discussion until I publish my first recap.

KenPom says: No. 32 Seton Hall 75, No. 12 Xavier 75 (52%)

Series history (Seton Hall 7-5)

Jan. 23, 2016, Xavier 84, SETON HALL 76, Cincinnati, Ohio
Jan. 31, 2015, SETON HALL 90, Xavier 82, Newark, N.J.
Jan. 7, 2015, Xavier 69, SETON HALL 58, Cincinnati, Ohio
March 3, 2014, SETON HALL 71, Xavier 62, Newark, N.J.
Feb. 1, 2014, SETON HALL 68, Xavier 60, Cincinnati, Ohio
Nov. 21, 2010, Xavier 57, SETON HALL 52, St. Thomas, VI
Dec. 8, 1979, SETON HALL 70, Xavier 67, Bloomington, Ind.
March 16, 1957 Xavier 85, SETON HALL 79, New York, N.Y.
Jan. 10, 1956, SETON HALL 84, Xavier 73, South Orange, N.J.
Jan. 11, 1953, SETON HALL 86, Xavier 78, South Orange, N.J.
Jan. 5, 1949, SETON HALL 60, Xavier 51, South Orange, N.J.
Jan. 4, 1948, Xavier 41, SETON HALL 34, Cincinnati, Ohio

Projected Xavier starters:

Myles Davis (10.7 ppg, 4 apg, 3.6 rpg)
Remy Abell (5.9 ppg)
Edmond Sumner (11.7 ppg, 3.4 apg, 3.3 rpg)
Trevon Bluiett (15.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg)
Jalen Reynolds (9.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg)

Projected Seton Hall starters:

Isaiah Whitehead (16.9 ppg, 5 apg)
Khadeen Carrington (13.9 ppg, 2.4 apg)
Desi Rodriguez (12.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg)
Ismael Sanogo (4.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg)
Angel Delgado (10.2 ppg, 9.8 rpg)

When: 12:30et, Sunday
TV: FOX Sports 1
Radio: 970 AM
Opening line: Even

  • Andrew Herbst

    Tomorrow is a great chance to make a statement. The sell out crowd will be such a great boost to help lead us to victory. I think we will come out inspired and give Xavier everything we have. GO PIRATES!

  • LBP

    Opening line = EVEN- The odds-makers have more confidence in the Hall than the pollsters-Let’s make the ROCK shake

  • Fishjam

    Xavier is playing at a very high level lately and deserve their top 5 ranking but the Pirates CAN win this game. The first matchup @ Xavier was following 2 emotional and physical games and the Pirates were definitely not sharp. That said, they managed to keep it a close game throughout until Angel & Ish both fouled out
    .
    This time, the game is at our place and the huge Senior Day crowd won’t let our players not be sharp.

    Our bigs were completely and uncharacteristicly manhandled in all aspects but it was compounded by the foul trouble as Angel & Ish were seldom on the court together. X has 3 long, athletic, smart veteran 6’10” forwards who can rebound, defend and score. They also get great support from their perimeter players defensively and on the boards. Every player for Xavier rebounds. James Farr played like Wilt Chamberlain against us but there is no way Angel and Ish will let him dominate like that again. I really hope they have a bad taste in their mouth and get some pay back. They need to stay away from the cheap fouls and get Angel involved early offensively as that is always the key with him. if he doesn’t score early, he presses and gets frustrated. Get him confident early and he’s a force.

    Offensively, we have to work hard against their 1-3-1 zone and not get lazy and settle for contested deep jumpers like we did the first game. When we passed the ball back and forth and penetrated, there were huge openings along the baseline where Desi ate them up. If X sticks with the 1-3-1 I’d like to see IW play in the corner some and let DG & Dino penetrate and kick to him for corner 3’s or baseline drives.

    Dino played his best game in a long time vs Providence. He attacked the rim aggressively and looked good on his mid-range jump shots. Those are his 2 strengths offensively and it was good to see him find them again. He can hit 3s but must take them in rythm when hes open and/orcan step into the shot rather than stationary shoot.

    If the team can play it’s usual tough man defense (which they didn’t @ Xavier) and stay out of foul trouble, they will be in the game down the stretch where it will come down to who hits their free throws and can make the plays during crunch time.
    Sumner is now back to full force and will be tough to handle. He’s a young Kris Dunn and DG will have to try to slow him down

  • WilponsStinkLessNow

    To the rim, Pirates!! I like our chances tomorrow. It’s time the nation recognized what this team can do…

  • Hallbuster

    Feel the energy. So does this team. On the verge of something big

  • Hallbuster

    Derick Gordon day today. I think he plays his heart out and so does this team in honor of him. The way they not only accept DG but embrace him as a leader really shows these are good kids. It’s hard not to wish them all anything but success. And props to willard. He has gotten through to them and they play hard for him. Something I never thought would happen. Is this like PJ when his coaching career really began in his last year of his original contract? Also, maybe Gibbs and sina were the bad apples.

    • Or maybe it’s easier for Willard to manage a team when he doesn’t have to make personnel decisions and is free of a useless assistant coach on his staff. 1 guard and 1 forward deep off the bench.

  • VinBick

    Wish I could be as confident as the first six posters here this morning. This is a preview of the BE tournament and the Big Dance for the Hall. Guys should be encouraged to play relaxed and enjoy the big stage. This is a talented, impressive team. X is the big gun in the league, fresh off their win over Nova. No one really expects the Pirates to beat the X-men.

    Hope Hallbuster is on point with the PJ era comparison. Forget about the NBA scouts watching Whitehead, how about top recruits looking to join a solid program with a bright future? This is the time of year for a big statement by the coaching staff and team. With a 2-1 finish to the regular season, dance committee has to seed the Hall as a seven or maybe even a six. Even at 1-2, looking for an eight or nine seed. Go Pirates!

    • Hallbuster

      Vin you are right. Huge litmus test today to see where if anywhere this team”s ceiling is. All the momentum in their favor. They need to capitalize on it. But Xavier plenty of their own momentum.

  • Hallbuster
    • hallstorm

      Great article Hallbuster. Thanks for sharing (especially before I leave for the Xavier game)