By Andy Mac Williams, 2/14/2018

Xavier(23-3 overall-11-2 BIG EAST with a half game lead over Villanova at 10-2) plays two home games at Cintas this week(Seton Hall-Wednesday-9PM-EST-FS1 and Villanova-Saturday-4:30PM-EST-FS1) with a chance to take firm control of the BIG EAST regular season race. SHU is the first roadblock. The Pirates were ranked as high as 13th nationally a month ago. but they've struggled over the past 9 games(3-6). Overall the Hall sits at 17-8 (6-6 in the BIG EAST) all alone in 6th place. Their NCAA RPI is still a decent 27. Their KenPom number is 35.

The Pirates' current three game losing streak has been a story of close but no cigar. First, there was a predictable 92-76 loss to Villanova in Philadelphia(VU went nuts from "three"). Then SHU lost in Newark 88-85 to Marquette despite a feverish comeback(Marcus Howard-32 points for MU). Saturday Seton Hall rallied again but lost at Georgetown 83-80 on a last gasp Markus Derrickson three pointer. Lack of defensive stops has been a chronic problem-along with slow starts-poor free throw shooting(67%-307th in NCAA Division 1-10th in the BIG EAST) and a thin inexperienced bench.

Despite the recent slump SHU has a solid shot at an NCAA bid for the third straight year thus their motivation to play well against Xavier.


Xavier won their first game ever in Newark back on Jan 20th 73-64. The Muskies overcame a 10 point second half deficit. J.P. Macura played a monster game for XU(27 points-5 rebounds-3 assists-hustle plays galore down the stretch including a dunk follow to put Xavier up 7 points late).X forced 18 SH turnovers thanks to 12 steals.

The XU bench swamped Seton Hall. Kerem Kanter had a match-up problem with Pirates horse Angel Delgado(6-10,245 Senior-BIG East's all time leading rebounder). Tyrique Jones,Sean O'Mara and Kaiser Gates picked up the slack in the paint.

Xavier has had trouble with Kevin Willard's Seton Hall teams(4-6 in New BIG EAST games). X has won 3 of 4 here at Cintas. The wins have been close. The Muskies beat the Pirates last season in Cincy 72-70 on a last possession Trevon Bluiett floater in the lane.


Delgado is one of four Senior regulars. He averages a double-double(13PPG-12 REBS). Angel hurt his left knee late in the Marquette loss, but played BIG minutes at G-town. He called for a players only meeting after that defeat. 6-7 Forward Desi Rodriguez scores from everywhere(18PPG-5REBS). He's a zone buster and a volume shooter. His stormy relationship with Coach Willard boiled over a couple weeks ago and resulted in his benching at Creighton. Lefty PG Khadeen Carrington(6-4) is a four year starter(14PPG-5Assists) who drives it well and drills FTs.

6-8 Ish Sanogo is the wild card. He's an elite defender-rebounder and shot blocker and he's been shooting better but he's been suspended twice this season. 6-2 Soph Myles Powell(15PPG-42% from three) is their micro-wave scorer(25 at Georgetown-26 at Xavier last season). The five starters all play 32 minutes plus. Fatigue and foul trouble are factors. 6-8 Junior Michael Nzei is a solid sub and 6-5 Frosh Myles Cale shows promise. The rest of the bench is hit and miss.


They were picked second ahead of Xavier in the BIG EAST Preseason Poll. Coach Willard changes defenses constantly. X has usually been able to negotiate his press looks though. Hopefully-Tyrique Jones can play for Xavier after missing games at Butler and at Creighton with a sore shoulder. Jones will bang with Delgado as he did against Govan and Derrickson of Georgetown. It was Tyrique's best game of the season. The Muskies are 15-0 at Cintas including 6-0 in the BIG EAST. XU is 9-0 in games decided by 6 points or fewer. Clutch free throw shooting is a Xavier strong point(77% as a team-15th among the 351 NCAA D-1 schools-but way over 80% in the final 4 minutes of games).


We celebrate 20 years of Joe Sunderman and Byron Larkin as the Xavier radio team with a joint Bobblehead give away. Congrats to Kerem Canter on making the BIG EAST Honor Roll last week averaging 18 points and 3.5 rebounds in road wins at Butler and Creighton.

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