1. How was Seton Hall able to upset two ranked teams - St. Johns and Villanova - in the first week of conference play?
Sean Saint Jacques: Sterling Gibbs has been a huge factor in the two wins. 45 points combined and he is shooting a remarkable 50 percent from three point land for the season. Khadeen Carrington's penetration and clutch drives to the basket have also been key in the absence of Whitehead. Delgado and Rodriguez have also been rebounding the ball at a great rate too.
The team has been able to make more free throws, especially against Villanova (20-26) and have played much better on defense. When the Pirates are able to get out and run off of turnovers or in transition they are very dangerous. Outscored the Wildcats 11-0 in fastbreak points.
2. What happened to Xavier in their loss at Depaul on Saturday?
Josh Bozzick: It seems like Xavier can never get over the bump on the road. They are not bad on the road, because they do play good enough to win when away from home. However, it seems as though they let the other team linger around the whole game, to the point where X ends up on the losing end. Xavier was up 18-9 over Depaul 10 minutes into the first half, then preceded to lift their foot off the pedal. 8 minutes later the Blue Demons were winning 26-22. As bad as they played in the second half, X was remarkable still in the game, thanks to a four minute 16-8 run to tie it at 66 apiece with 42 seconds left. Then the men in black commited a dumb foul. Remy Abell fouled the Depaul player who received the inbounds pass - Aaron Simpson - 95 FEET FROM THE BASKET. Simpson hit both which gave Depaul the lead for good and the win. Its the little things for Xavier when away from Cintas. As the season progresses I hope as does every Xavier fan that they figure it out on the road.
Sheridan Murphy: They got complacent. They were leading DePaul by nine early and allowed the lead to slide because of undisciplined defense and inconsistent offense which ultimately led to their loss. Their performance in Chicago on Saturday was inexcusable and they will not be playing in March if they continue to have games where they play like that. The only pass the Muskies will receive for their poor performance is the fact that much of the team has been stricken with the flu bug recently. Hopefully once this team is back at full strength and health they will step up their defense and overall execution.
3. Does this freshman class for Seton Hall have the potential to bring the Pirates back to national relevance?
SJ: This team is extremely deep in the backcourt with Gibbs, Jaren Sina, Carrington and Whitehead. The ranking alone has brought them back to the forefront and many of the players have tweeted saying that "The Hall is back!"
The answer to the question is yes. When Whitehead comes back, I think this team will be even better because Carrington has emerged. Rodriguez has turned into another solid rebounder and Delgado continues to impress. Many people talked about this team being just Whitehead and everyone else, but those other freshmen have really started to emerge into real players for this team.
4. Trevon Bluiett came up big in Xavier's loss at Depaul, mainly in the 2nd half, after struggling in the previous few games. Who else does Xavier need more contribution from if they want to be a consistent team?
JB: After scoring in double digits in the first eight games, Matt Stainbrook has put up scoring lines of 6, 6, 11, 11, 8, 5. All under his season average of 12.1 points a game. His rebounding has remained largely the same, but it is his lack of scoring production that has hurt Xavier recently, especially in their loss to Depaul. Backup point guard Brandon Randolph scored 11 points against Missouri and 5 against Auburn. Since, he has put out three straight games of donuts - 0 points. In fact, his minutes have been cut in half largely to his under performing play. He has played 6 minutes per game in the last three games, but his season average is 13.4 minutes per game. Randolph has only recorded one stat in those three games besides his total of 2 personal fouls. That single stat is a rebound against Georgetown. For Xavier, they need Stainbrook to get back to playing as an All-Team player and Brandon Randolph to be a serviceable backup to Dee Davis. These things need to happen if they want to be a consistent team.
SM: I think if Xavier is going to be serious contender in this conference this year it will be by committee, not by one or two players showing up every game. The truly dangerous Xavier teams of the past were deep and consistent, having five guys or so averaging around ten points a game. If Xavier can look to pass before they look to shoot, they will be a tough team to defend and ultimately defeat, especially in Cincinnati.
5. Pick the score. Who wins and who stands out for your respected team.
SJ: Xavier is favored in this game, despite the loss to DePaul, because of how great the Cintas Center is as a home court advantage, but the Pirates won there last year with a less talented team. Both teams have improved, but I think The Hall have made the more impactful changes. I know that the Pirates are 1-2 on the road this season, but I think that they are prepared to battle the likes of Stainbrook because the Pirate frontcourt already had to deal with Ochefu and Pinkston. Yes, Ochefu had a great game, but despite The Hall being in foul trouble, they shut down Pinkston.
The difference in this game will be Carrington's ability to drive through the Xavier defense. The Musketeers are not nearly as good on defense as Villanova and Carrington has his way with the Wildcats down the stretch. Gibbs has a solid game, but not as good as the last two home games. Delgado and Rodriguez play well too, but I think Carrington really shines in a 75-70 win for the Pirates.
JB: Xavier has three things going for them against Seton Hall. The game is home, Hall is ranked, and tipoff is set for 7 p.m. The Musketeers lost to the Pirates in an uninspiring performance 68-60 at home last year. That game was an early Saturday start, 12 p.m., and Xavier played as if they were the ones hungover, like the many students in the student section from the night before. Thanks to those three things, the men in blue and white (Xavier not Seton Hall) should be full of energy when the ball goes up at center court. X wins because they were 0-2 against the Pirates last year, and they are still mad they lost at a bad Depaul team. Xavier's freshmen wings have a big day, Trevon Bluiett and JP Macura combine for 30 of Xaviers 66 points in a win over the Pirates, 66-62.
SM: Xavier is favored in this game because playing at Cintas is truly troubling. Xavier defends its home court very well and typically win a few games against opponents they would not beat on the road each season. Xavier did it to the offensive juggernaut that was Creighton's team last year and to Georgetown already this year. If the team is healthy, look for them to come out and play like they played against Georgetown. This is a game Xavier must win at home because winning in New Jersey is not going to be easy.