Since the reformatting of the Big East Conference, the Seton Hall Pirates have accomplished a particular feat that no one else can say that they’ve done. The Pirates have tagged the Villanova Wildcats with a loss in each of the last three seasons. Considering that ‘Nova has lost just 15 total games since the 2013-14 season and just eight games in conference play, it perhaps makes the feat all the more impressive. The Wildcats have been the standard bearer of this Big East Conference, and yet, Seton Hall continues to be a prickly thorn in their side.
With all that said, Villanova did their damnedest to squash any shot of that happening the last time these two teams met. Back in January, the Pirates traveled across the Delaware and visited The Main Line and, well, it wasn’t very pretty. Villanova put on a terrific defensive display, allowing just 46 points to be scored by the visiting team. That’s the lowest point total for and allowed on both sides this season and was the largest margin of victory in this series since the 1970s.
At the moment, The Hall stands at 6-7 in Big East play and although they’ve won three of their last four games, ideally they still need some things to go their way to feel a little bit more comfortable. They were helped out some with their win over Creighton on Wednesday and to date, their quality wins include: South Carolina, Marquette, California and the Bluejays. Two of the four are pretty safely in the NCAA Tournament (South Carolina, Creighton), one hanging tight (Cal) and another squarely on the fence (Marquette).
Given the spectrum right now and their upcoming slate, the Pirates aren’t entirely in must-win territory yet. That may come when Xavier comes to town next Wednesday, but a win over the defending National Champions would do them wonders and get themselves into an even safer zone for now.
Typical of them, Villanova has been acting like a well-oiled machine since taking a loss to Marquette back on January 24. They have since won their last six games and have again established themselves as the measuring stick in the conference. In their last six victories, only two have been decided by single digits and they’ve held five of their last six opponents to under 65 points.
That could be troubling for a team like Seton Hall, who has struggled with efficiency all season and recently could only muster point totals of 68 and 72 in games that were decided in overtime. Counterpoints could suggest otherwise as they were able to put up 86 vs. St. John’s and 87 vs. Creighton, but ‘Nova’s defense is far more tenacious and fierce than their fellow Big East contemporaries. That is... unless Khadeen Carrington wants to play out of his mind again and score over 40 points, of course.
The Prudential Center is set to be ‘rock’-ing for this one (See what I did there?) as 19,000+ are expected to be inside the venue on Lafayette and Mulberry. If this series has taught us anything over the past four years, we’re due for at least one memorable affair every year. We weren’t treated to one at The Pavilion, so maybe Newark, New Jersey will be the place to play host to one instead.
How to watch or stream
Time: 12:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go (Where Available)
Spread: Coming later
Records ATS: Villanova 14-13 | Seton Hall 10-13
O/U: Coming later
Players to Watch
Jalen Brunson: While Josh Hart has gotten all the deserved glory this season, Villanova’s point guard has made lengthy strides after a very good freshman season. His efficiency has markedly improved, and his eFG% and TS% are actually superior to Hart’s while taking three less field goals per game. Brunson ranks fourth in the conference in Assist% (26.8), only trailing Kyron Cartwright, Tyler Lewis and Edmond Sumner. Look for Brunson to make an impact in Saturday’s game as he squares off with Carrington.
Josh Hart: What’s there really to say about Josh Hart? The superlatives are all over the place and he’s been, without much doubt, the best player in the conference and one of the best in the nation this year as well. He’s been in a slight shooting slump lately, making just nine of his last 21 field goal attempts as we enter Saturday’s game. Seton Hall will have to do all they can to put the clamps on him though because as we’ve seen this season, he very rarely goes through lengthy, quiet stretches.
Mikal Bridges: His stats may not wow you at first glance, but Mikal Bridges has been vital to Villanova’s successes this season. Bridges has been quite good in conference play, averaging 13.6 points per 40 minutes while being a pretty stout defender too. His defensive rating logs in at 93.2, one of the top marks in the conference and also ranks highly in Defensive Win Shares and Defensive Box Plus-Minus, too. In short, Bridges has been a quality defender based on the metrics and the eye test too. The 6-foot-7 sophomore will be one to watch on the defensive end on Saturday afternoon for sure and we’ll see who he’ll be assigned to when he takes the floor.
Khadeen Carrington: It’s hard to ignore someone when they drop a 40-point game on you. Khadeen did exactly that this past week, scoring 41 points in the victory over Creighton. Those 41 points surpassed the previous career-high he set back against Florida in November (28) and it was a career day in many aspects, as he set a new high in free throw attempts too with a ridiculous 22. What Carrington has in store for an encore is yet to be seen, but should prove to be a spectacle regardless.
Angel Delgado: It’s hard to find a better big man in the Big East this season (sans Justin Patton) than Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado. Delgado has been almost a virtual lock to get a double-double in games this year, as he’s recorded 20 of such performances in 25 games. Pretty decent, yeah? With Darryl Reynolds’ status yet to be determined (day-to-day with a rib injury), Delgado could feast on freshman Dylan Painter if he’s in put up against him or whomever they have to try to lock him up as he’ll have the size advantage to say the least.
Desi Rodriguez: The third member of Seton Hall’s triple threat has been a threat from three in Big East play so far. Through the 13 games played, Rodriguez ranks fifth among his Big East peers in 3-point field goal percentage, having converted on 45.2 percent of his opportunities from beyond the arc. One of ‘Nova’s biggest strengths has been 3-point defense (30.5 percent allowed from long range this season) and teams have not typically shot many 3-pointers against them (a 3-point field goal rate of 40.2 percent, ranking 297th in the country) so we’ll see how often Desi pulls the trigger from deep and if he can be successful in doing so.