1) Last two matchups were instant classics
Each of the last two times the Pirates and Wildcats have gotten together they have given us must-watch games. First, Sterling Gibbs shook Madison Square Garden when he hit the buzzer beating jumper that eliminated Villanova from the Big East tournament last season and cost them a one seed in the NCAA Tournament. Then back on Jan. 3 in front of a sold out Prudential Center the Pirates beat Villanova again, this time in overtime led by some vital baskets down the stretch from Khadeen Carrington.
It is obvious that the teams and fan bases do not like each other, especially since the last meeting where Wildcat Josh Hart kicked Seton Hall freshman Angel Delgado in the shins during one play and was booed by The Rock every time he touched the ball during the rest of the game. However, since that marquee win the Pirates have clearly not been the same team and that is a huge understatement. As a matter of fact, many believe that Seton Hall would shock the college basketball world if they were to somehow pull this one out. We are a couple of weeks away from March, but it is going to take some madness for the Pirates to pull off this upset.
2) Pirates need Whitehead and Gibbs to both play well
In The Hall’s first game without Jaren Sina, they played better than many would have predicted thought Providence, especially Isaiah Whitehead who led the team with 20 points and shot the ball pretty well. However, turnovers really hurt Seton Hall and so did the 3-11 shooting from the field by Gibbs, the team’s leading scorer.
Both players need to make a huge impact in this game if the Pirates want to have a chance. The Hall will need to start out fast as well. In the first matchup in Newark, Seton Hall took a double-digit lead on Villanova before the fans could catch their collective breathe. The Pirates will need their two best players to have great games, limit mistakes and take an early lead in order to have a shot of winning at The Pavilion.
3) Wildcats as hot as ever
Just like in the first matchup, Villanova is coming into this game on a roll as they have won six in a row. The Wildcats have won those games by an average of 12.8 points during that stretch. Villanova is also coming off a dramatic win over Butler after Darrun Hilliard, who missed a game winning three pointer against Seton Hall in the first game, buried a three pointer to win it at Hinkle Field House.
The biggest on-court difference between this matchup and the first one is how well Ryan Arcidiacono has been playing. Heading into the Butler game, Arcidiacono had scored at least 18 points in three of his previous four games and looks more confident in his three-point shot than he did in the first matchup in Newark.
Seton Hall needs this game desperately, but many things will have to go their way in order to win it. The Pirates may need some road warrior magic (if that even exists) or just some fantastic shooting nights. One thing is a guarantee. When Seton Hall and Villanova meet it is always must-see television.