Seton Hall has been on an unbelievable run over the last few weeks, earning them a spot in tonight's BIG EAST championship game. The Pirates entered this season as a young team with hopes of being able to put it all together to make an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. After a shaky beginning to their year, Seton Hall then started to play more cohesive basketball right before the start BIG EAST schedule. This young squad only took off from there. The Pirates absolutely have been on fire of late, with eight victories in their last 10 games. Despite their already high level of play, last night's dismantling of Xavier showed us how truly special Seton Hall can be.
They enter tonight's matchup against the reigning champions Villanova as the much more inexperienced team, yet the Pirates seem to be relishing this moment. We take a look at three reasons Seton Hall can pull off the upset tonight:
1. Isaiah Whitehead
Add this sophomore sensation to the long list of New York City point guards who put on a show at the BIG EAST Tournament. Whitehead opened the tournament with a double-double, recording 24 points and 12 rebounds against Creighton. He followed that up with 20 points, eight assists, two blocks and one steal against Xavier last night. But what has been most impressive about Whitehead's performances at the Garden, has been how he knows when to take over the game. Whitehead made play after play down the stretch against Creighton, not only scoring, but also finding his teammates in good situations. Seton Hall will need another strong showing from their leader on Saturday, and don't be shocked if Whitehead saves his best game for last.
2. Perimeter Defense
Villanova is a tough matchup for any team. They have five players who can handle the ball well, and almost always four players on the court who are lethal three point shooters. Because of Nova's versatility, most teams often find themselves in at least one mismatch defensively. The emergence of 6'6" Kris Jenkins as a consistent scoring threat has only made the Wildcats more dangerous of late, as he is too big for most guards to defend, but too fast for most big men.
Seton Hall's defense has been erratic at times, but over the last few games they have really solidified their play on that end. While Villanova's versatility is a problem for most teams, the Pirates have plenty of strong perimeter defenders to counter with. The combination of Derrick Gordon, Whitehead, Khadeen Carrington, and Desi Rodriguez gives Seton Hall both the size and athleticism to match up with Villanova at multiple positions.
3. Outside Shooting
While the Pirates normally are not known for their three point shooting, Seton Hall has been able to find their outside stroke in the BIG EAST Tournament. The Pirates shot 47% from downtown against Creighton, as Khadeen Carrington led the team by making 5 of his 9 attempts. Carrington followed that up by draining three of his six three point attempts against Xavier, with Isaiah Whitehead adding three made triples as well.
No matter how well their defense plays, Seton Hall is going to need to put up points to keep pace with one of the best offenses in the country. Despite being a strong defensive team as well, Villanova gave up plenty of open three point opportunities to Providence in their semifinal victory. Although they shot well overall, the Friars had a few good looks late in the game that they were not able to hit, and thus fell off Villanova's pace. Seton Hall will need to take advantage of these outside looks throughout the game if they want to pull off an upset.