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Pirates head to DePaul in desperate need of a victory

The Pirates have lost two straight and three of their last four

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Seton Hall Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Seton Hall Pirates (15-5, 4-3) at DePaul Blue Demons (9-11, 2-6)

WHERE: Wintrust Arena, Chicago, Ill.

WHEN: 4 p.m. ET

TV: CBS Sports Network (Dave Ryan and Steve Wolf)


ALL-TIME: Pirates lead 14-6

Coming into this one, one team is trying to ride their momentum to another victory, while the other is trying to break out of a tough stretch of games.

Now, if you read that sentence at the beginning of this season, you would obviously assume that the struggling team would be DePaul, while the team riding momentum would be Seton Hall.

And you would be wrong.

Seton Hall enters this matchup losers of two straight and three of their last four, dropping from No. 13 in the rankings all the way out in just a matter of two weeks. Meanwhile, DePaul comes into this one after an exciting road win on Wednesday over Georgetown on an Eli Cain game-winner in the final seconds.

Nonetheless, Seton Hall is the better team here. Desi Rodriguez is playing like an All-Big East First Teamer, and the Pirates’ ability to score inside and out can be dangerous. The Pirates have also won each of the last four matchups with the Blue Demons.

However, DePaul has given the Pirates a good run in recent years. In the last four meetings between these two teams, all of which have been won by Seton Hall, one game per season has been decided by four or less points. In 2015, DePaul swept the Pirates, and in 2014 the Blue Demons earned a split with Seton Hall. So, by doing some quick math, Seton Hall is just 5-3 against DePaul since conference realignment.

DePaul will need to look to play through their star players, with much of the attention being paid to Eli Cain and Max Strus. If either of these two are shut down by the Pirate defense, DePaul will have trouble scoring. Marin Maric and Tre’Darius McCallum are solid second options, but can be inconsistent at times.

The Pirates will have to play up tempo and try and keep the DePaul defense off-balanced. For Seton Hall, they will want to try and put this game away early, in an effort to try and build that confidence back up that they have lacked seemingly for a couple weeks now. The Pirates have yet to have a comfortable game in conference play yet, and Sunday is their chance to finally enjoy one.

I expect Seton Hall to handle DePaul in this one and improve to 5-3 in conference play. However, if DePaul is able to hang around down the stretch in this one, let alone win the game, anxiety in South Orange will only grow higher.