SCOUTING SETON HALL!!
Andy Mac Williams,
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.
XU-SHU GAME#1 at The ROCK:
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.
OTHER THOUGHTS ON SETON HALL GAME:
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).
GIVING OUT KUDOS:
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.