Seton Hall faced with must-win game against Xavier

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Forget the 26 games in the rear-view and temporarily ignore the remaining three-plus games that will close out the season: Xavier presents a scenario that must only go one way for Seton Hall if they wish to keep their at-large NCAA hopes alive.

Still sitting firmly on the NCAA bubble, Seton Hall (16-10, 6-8) will host a hobbling Xavier (18-9, 8-6) team that will be going into their seventh game since starting point guard Edmond Sumner was lost for the season and potentially their third game without Trevon Bluiett (ankle).

Bluiett will likely suit up but he won’t be 100-percent as the Musketeers look to prevent a four-game losing streak as they play their third road game in a week — talk about a rough stretch.

Xavier’s leading scorer at just under 18 points per game, Bluiett sank Seton Hall via 24 points and a game-winning bucket with 5 seconds on the clock in the first meeting between the two schools on February 1st in Cincinnati.

A trending downward Xavier which has lost by a combined 34 points at Providence and Marquette in their last two games bodes well for Seton Hall, who are rightfully treating this game as a must-win as a victory is key for them finishing at .500 or above in league play; it would also boost the Hall to 4-6 against the RPI top-50.

“We’ll bounce back. I’ve said this all along: I’ve got a lot of confidence in these guys,” preached Kevin Willard after Villanova blasted his team by 22 on Saturday.

“We knew this was a big home stretch. Obviously you would have liked to get all three, but in reality you had to get two out of three.”

Willard is right, in my opinion.

After taking care of No. 20 Creighton last Wednesday, the Hall was somewhat playing with NCAA resume house money against No. 2 Villanova: if you win, you cash out as a big winner. If you lose, you don’t take much of a hit other than in confidence and momentum, but it sets up a must-have against Xavier.

Trevon Bluiett pops out as the Pirate-killer when looking at the last game on paper, but Xavier received 24 points and 13 boards from the combination of forwards Kaiser Gates (5.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and Sean O’Mara (5.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg) off the bench while Angel Delgado (15.3 ppg, 13.2 rpg) was held to 13 points and 13 boards while just one point and five rebounds came from the Hall’s four-spot.

Willard tends to concur this mismatch made a big difference earlier this month

“We have to do a little better job of Kaiser Gates, I think he’s a guy — everyone looks at [JP] Macura, everyone worries about Trevon Bluiett — but Kaiser Gates really hurt us in the second half of the first game,” said Willard.

“Bluiett will be back by us, he’ll be healthy, but we have to do a better job on Kaiser Gates.”

In a Big East season which has featured three Seton Hall losses by four points or less — at Marquette, Providence and Xavier — the Pirates must make the extra effort on Wednesday in all the little areas by channeling three days of rest at home that the Musketeers won’t have as they wrap up a grueling road trip.

“A couple more little things,” said Khadeen Carrington about what could prove to be the difference this time around.

“Maybe a box out here, a dive on the floor for a loose ball [there] — that’s what it came down to at Xavier.”

“Guys are staying positive. We took a tough shot last time at St. John’s and then we came out and beat Creighton. We’re just staying positive, there’s no time to sit around and sulk.”

With their season on the line, Seton Hall must be hyper-alert on Wednesday to not let their guard down and succumb to another 16-3 run like the one that changed the tide at the Cintas Center in the second half; Seton Hall did lead 49-43 with 12 to play.

At this juncture, they just can’t afford any slip ups.

“A win, that’s a win that we need. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it,” said Carrington of the mindset going into Wednesday.

When I asked him if it’s a must-win? The answer couldn’t have been calmer.

“Yeah, definitely.”

KenPom says: No. 59 Seton Hall 73, No. 37 Xavier 72 (53%)

Series history (SH 9-6)

Feb. 1, 2017, Xavier 72, SETON HALL 70, Cincinnati, Ohio
March 11, 2016, SETON HALL 87, Xavier 83, New York City, N.Y.
Feb. 28, 2016, SETON HALL 90, Xavier 81, Newark, N.J.
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
PG – Quentin Goodin
G – JP Macura
G/F – Trevon Bluiett
F – Malcolm Bernard
F – Tyrique Jones

Projected Seton Hall starters
PG – Madison Jones
G – Khadeen Carrington
F – Desi Rodriguez
F – Mike Nzei
F – Angel Delgado

When: 7et, Wednesday
TV: FOX Sports 1
Radio: 570AM (Gary Cohen & Dave Popkin)
Opening line: Seton Hall -2

  • Andrew Herbst

    This is a make or break game. I think we’ll come out ready to play. I think Khadeem and Desi will play well. GO PIRATES

  • Ardy

    Hope the Hall comes out and makes their own runs 1st instead of responding to Xaviers run. They need to institute their game plan and make their opponent respond to them. They have to hit first like Nova and respond if Xavier hits back, and if Xavier doesn’t respond finish them early in the second half. Real teamwork will be vital. Xavier is without a starter( Bluiett) . Even if everyone on the opposing team is healthy we must have a mind to win no matter what.

    • PadrePirate

      I think Bluiett will play. The guy’s a hoss and a proven Pirate-killer. Not sure who will cover him, but I’d rather not see KC worn-out on the defensive end.

      • Ardy

        Hopefully we can win even if he is at full strength. MP had a good game against them last time.

  • LBP

    I do not believe this is the ” must win” Game but it is of significant import.( Hall could run the last 3 and win 2 or more in Big East Tournie). I will attend and hope many others with a positive attitude.
    I have and still like this Team-it does have to have a certain swagger and I do not see Desi and Ish underperforming 2 Games in a row.

    • shufaninva

      If they don’t win tomorrow, there is no way they win the final game in Indy.

      • LBP

        shufaninva- Altho I understand and appreciate your statement, I just have no idea what This Team may do-ever-

        • shufaninva

          That is a good point. To be honest, some great teams have struggled in Rosemont, so I’m really worried about that too. Lose tomorrow, and at DePaul, and at least we will be able to say that Selection Sunday won’t be a nervous day.

        • PadrePirate

          That’s been both the charm and the agony of this year-you never really know who’s going to show up. Angel has been Mr. Consistent this year, but Desi, Khadeen, and Powell are so streaky. When our shots aren’t falling, morale drops, they hussle less on D, and things snowball. We live and fall by the hot hand.

    • SHU95

      I don’t disagree agree in that NCAA’s are still theoretically possible with a loss tonight, but I think the thinking is that a loss tonight means running the table, including a W at Butler which even the most Positive SHU fans would agree is a tall order considering we never seem beat them. Tonight’s game is home against a less than 100% Xavier squad who we have played well against over the past few seasons… it’s a must win in that we have Zero margin for error if we lose tonight. This is a winnable game, lets go Pirates!!!

  • VinBick

    This game IS the Pirate season on the line. Win and we are on the bubble for another day. A loss means the N.I.T. will be our post-season.

  • PadrePirate

    Good to hear KC locked in. We need a big game from either KC or MP. Not sure who gets the assignment to cover Bluiett if he plays. Desi is the right size but spaces out on D sometimes. Powell is smaller but more alert and aggressive.
    If one of the guards can get a hot hand early, that takes a lot of pressure off Angel and spreads the floor.

  • Seton Hall open as 2-point favorites.

    here is latest on Trevon Bluiett’s status (sounds like a game-time)

  • Ardy