Game Preview: No. 8 Villanova vs. Seton Hall

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Villanova, PA -- On the eve of No. 8 Villanova's contest with Big East foe, Seton Hall, Head Coach Jay Wright switched it up a bit.

Instead being bombarded with reporters on the baseline of a basketball court, the coach called for a teleconference to discuss the upcoming game and saving everyone from travel in the brisk weather. But Wright was straightforward with his thoughts on the Pirates. He cleared his throat and made it clear that despite their record, Seton Hall is still a lethal basketball club.

"It's a road game in the Big East and you have a team in Seton Hall that beat us there last year in a great game," Wright said during the teleconference on Tuesday afternoon.

They are a dangerous team with so many scorers. They're team is obviously going to matchup well against us because they are a perimeter oriented squad."

"We work everyday on [Arcidiacono] guarding guys at the top of the key, seriously," -Jay Wright said with a chuckle

The Pirates (10-5, 1-1 Big East) enter Wednesday night's game with a bevy of capable scorers that keep Seton Hall in the top-100 of the NCAA in scoring, scraping together 78.2 points per game, good for 65th in the nation. Their key cog is Sterling Gibbs, a sophomore that Wright referred to as a "do it all guard" that's "Jersey tough."

In 29.5 minutes per contest Gibbs averages team-highs in points (15.9), assists (3.8), and free throw shooting percentage (82.9%). His stellar play leads Wright to draw comparisons to an older, electrifying Villanova guard.

"His ability to get to the foul line is amazing," Wright said. "[Gibbs] has more free throw attempts than field goal attempts. He reminds me of Corey Fisher. He has craftiness and intelligence and the ability to get people open for shots."

And for Wright's guards, who despite their nearly spotless record, have a problem with defending their position, they haven't switched up anything defensively for this week's practices. Wright said that they're always drilling defense even though it may not seem like it.

"We work everyday on [Ryan Arcidiacono] guarding guys at the top of the key, seriously," Wright admitted with a slight chuckle. [Tony Chennault] and [Arcidiacono] can get better in that area and it's going to be a huge load of work in that area against Sterling Gibbs."

Though the Pirates bring in a team with five players scoring ten points a game or more, Villanova (13-1, 2-0) has their own weapons that could be useful in their third Big East collision. Where Seton Hall struggles (dishing assists and rebounding the ball) is where the Wildcats excel. Villanova ranks in the top-50 in assists, rebounding and points scored per game in the NCAA.

The Wildcats will be paced by JayVaughn Pinkston, their junior forward who was recently named Big 5 Player of the Week after a dominant performance against Providence. Pinkston paces the Wildcats in scoring with 16.1 points and is second on the team in rebounding with 5.1 per contest. He's 14 points away from reaching the 1,000-point mark for his career.

But even with his team at the top of the conference, Wright doesn't count out any team. Even when the rest of the nation has counted out the Big East, Wright still has faith in the conference where one of the top teams in the NCAA resides.

"We've talked about this all the time...I just think we have high quality basketball and passionate fan followings," Wright said. "Our league is third in RPI and we can have years when they are even higher. Now that I see the teams play each other, every road game you know you could lose one. Everyone has a great home environment"

Notes:

  • Jay Wright said that freshman Kris Jenkins has lost nearly 30 pounds since he came to Villanova form Gonzaga Prep
  • Wright on his recruiting and how it impacts the team: "It's what we always try to do. We try to find the most important guys that will fit the Villanova culture...we try to use our player's strengths. Last year our inside players like Ochefu and Pinkston weren't there yet and our perimeter players were young."
  • Wright on if he knew the team could be this good last year:  "Our staff thought we could be a good team last year because we could get better and better...defensively we can get a lot better and rebounding wise we can as well."

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