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This is probably the biggest test for the Seton Hall Pirates all season. On home soil by technicality at Madison Square Garden, the Pirates need to pull off the upset against the Kentucky Wildcats in order to make a statement. This is their one shot to do it.
After costing themselves the game against Chris Mack and the
Xavier Louisville Cardinals and a win over UNH, the Pirates have two last home games before taking on Maryland. In fact, this is probably their best shot at beating this Kentucky team.
Under the bright lights of the Garden, where Seton Hall has had some success, Kentucky’s younger guys might be flustered. Players like Tyler Herro, Immanuel Quickley will have their hands full this game for the Wildcats. As for Reid Travis and PJ Washington, they will be used to this kind of pressure.
Seton Hall comes in a bit undersized. Of course, they match up well against Travis, Quickley and even Herro, but who is the answer for Keldon Johnson and PJ Washington? Those guys will have to be clamped by Michael Nzei, the veteran forward at 6-8 will probably provide key stops for the Pirates. Rebounding should not be too difficult, as Sandro Mamukelashvili and Taurean Thompson have improved around the boards. Seton Hall needs to box out as best as possible against the best offensive rebounding team in the nation. Although they are not great shooters from beyond the arc, Kentucky’s ability to take the ball inside off the dribble is a problem.
The key things to capitalize on:
Forcing Turnovers- Kentucky is ranked 210 in Turnover percentage, and a scrappy team like Seton Hall should capitalize.
Preventing Second Chance Points: Kentucky’s 2-point percentage is top 15, combined with the best offensive rebounding percentage makes this a cornerstone focus for the big men. Box out and prevent extra shot attempts.
Don’t get out-muscled: Kentucky is no small team by any means. Their athleticism is elite, and guys like PJ Washington are notorious for ruining the days of wings.
The offense for the Pirates is a bit Hit and Miss. Myles Powell is matching up against Ashton Hagans, arguable the best defender Kentucky has on the team. Someone else, like Quincy McKnight, Myles Cale or even Taurean Thompson need to bear the load this game. Kentucky matches up well against Seton Hall, with a list of long, athletic and agile defenders. Reid Travis will be the main focus of Mamu and TT. Expect Romaro Gill to log plenty of minutes as well. Cale, Rhoden and Nelson need to provide the spark off the bench to give the Wildcats fits.
What Seton Hall needs to focus on:
3-pointers: I know, 3s are greater than 2s, but Kentucky struggles at defending the arc.
Spread the wealth: force every kentucky defender to work, not just Hagans.
Don’t implode in the second half- This doesn’t need an explanation, look at the Louisville game.
If Kentucky comes out with the freshmen jitters, expect Seton Hall to capitalize early. The should focus on spreading the wealth when it comes to scoring as much as possible to avoid the Hagins-Powell defensive matchup. Expect this to be a tooth and nail type of game, something Big East teams love to play, especially at MSG.