Seton Hall Pirates (17-8, 6-6) vs. No. 4 Xavier Musketeers (23-3, 11-2)
WHERE: Cintas Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
WHEN: 9 p.m.
TV: FS1 (Tim Brando, Jim Jackson)
LINE: Xavier by 5.5
ALL-TIME: Pirates lead 10-7
Let’s face it. The last time these two teams met up, Seton Hall should have won the game. Plain and simple.
Seton Hall led for over 32 minutes in this game, and led by as many as 10 in the second half. Ultimately, tired legs got the best of the Pirates, as the starters for Seton Hall played for the entire second half. Down the stretch, Xavier caught fire at the Pirates simply had no answers.
That has to give Pirates fans hope for tonight’s matchup, even considering the facts that overly this game.
Xavier has won eight straight games, dating back to a January 13 win over Creighton. They are firing on all cylinders, with Trevon Bluiett maintaining his Big East Player of the Year candidacy with an 18.1 PPG average in league play.
On the flip side, the Pirates have lost three straight, and six of their last nine, and are coming off a week in which they unexpectedly fell at home to Marquette before coming up short against Georgetown on the road.
However, the second half of the Georgetown game was one that Seton Hall can certainly build momentum off of. After a sluggish first half, the Pirates battled back from a 17-point second half deficit to take the lead late, only to see it slip away after a Marcus Derrickson three with four seconds left.
The new team atop the Big East standings, Xavier is the only team in the conference with an undefeated home record (15-0). This only adds to the stiff test the Pirates face tonight.
This senior group of Pirates has never won inside Cintas Center, with the program’s last win in the building coming back in February of 2014. Two of the three matchups in Cincinnati since Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez, Khadeen Carrington and Ismael Sanogo arrived on campus have been decided by single digits, with the average margin of victory for Xavier sitting at seven points.
The Pirates struggled last week with perimeter defense, with Markus Howard and Marcus Derrickson wreacking havoc from the outside. Against a Xavier team with names like Bluiett, Macura, Gates, and even Quentin Goodin distributing, the Pirates have no choice to lock down away from the basket.
Xavier will hit shots from deep, so Seton Hall will need to match that. Myles Powell scored 23 of his 25 points against Georgetown in the second half on Saturday, including all six of his three-pointers. That performance shows exactly what happens when this guy gets hot, and he had a shooting performance the likes we haven’t seen from the sophomore during his tenure in South Orange.
Where the Pirates could gain an advantage is in the post, where Seton Hall has the more skilled players. Seton Hall should win the rebounding battle, but it can’t be all on Angel Delgado to grab boards. While Ismael Sanogo can defend multiple positions, he needs to be able to crash the boards as well and help limit second chances.
Look for this one to be a fast-paced game, with the potential to be a close one as long as Seton Hall locks in on the defensive end. It was their kryptonite last week, so let’s see if that area is improved tonight.