No. 4 Villanova Wildcats (25-4, 12-4) vs. Seton Hall Pirates (20-9, 9-7)
WHEN: 8:30 p.m.
WHERE: Prudential Center, Newark NJ
TV: FS1 (Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery)
LINE: Villanova by 6.5
ALL-TIME: Villanova leads 73-41
Seton Hall-Villanova. This is must watch TV.
It’s another chapter in this rivalry, one that produced the best Big East title game since the conference realigned, and arguably the best game overall.
The Pirates, who two weeks ago had questions swirling around them about their stability and whether or not they were built for March, have rattled off three straight wins, including two tough road wins last week against Providence and St. John’s. However, they have not defeated Villanova since that Big East Championship game, and haven’t beaten them in the regular season since January 2015.
Meanwhile, after beginning the season 22-1, Villanova is 3-3 in their last six games, with losses coming at home to St. John’s and on the road to Providence and Creighton. They were banged up for a bit, with Eric Paschall and Phil Booth missing time, but both are back. They’ll need some help in order to capture their fifth straight Big East regular season title, but Villanova is focused on doing what they can down the stretch to notch a one seed in the NCAA Tournament.
History is not on the side of Seton Hall. Aside from the fact that it has been almost two years since the Pirates took down the Wildcats, Villanova has dominated the all-time series. Additionally, Villanova has not lost back-to-back games since the end of the 2013 season.
Yes, you read that right.
The model of consistency over the past five seasons faces their final tough test before tournament time, but they come into Newark healthy and ready to go.
Health-wise, Seton Hall cannot say the same. Leading scorer Desi Rodriguez went down with a sprained ankle thanks to the wet floors in Providence last week. He did not play at St. John’s on Saturday, and is a game-time decision for tonight’s game. If Rodriguez plays, Seton Hall has a very good chance to pull an upset tonight at home. If not, it’ll be very tough.
In Rodriguez’s absence, Khadeen Carrington has had a resurgence that netted him Big East Player of the Week honors. In two games last week, Carrington averaged 23.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 3.0 APG as he played the role of scorer instead of pass-first guard.
Carrington’s issue this season at the point guard position has been balancing passing with scoring. With Rodriguez out, he was forced to score, and he did just that. This is when Carrington is at his best, and it’s proven by him being 10th on the school’s all-time scoring list.
Carrington will be tasked with Jalen Brunson, who dropped 21 points and six assists in the last matchup between these two teams back on February 4. One of the leading candidates for Big East Player of the Year, Brunson is hard to keep in check. The most that can be asked of Carrington is to at least match him offensively scoring-wise.
The hot hand in the last matchup was Omari Spellman, as he lit it up from the floor dropping 26 points on 9-of-12 shooting, including 6-of-7 from deep, while also snatching 11 boards. Ismael Sanogo has to be locked onto this guy, not Angel Delgado. Delgado struggles defending away from the basket, while Sanogo is arguably the best defender in this conference. Sanogo will disrupt Spellman defensively, and Delgado has a size advantage over other the other Villanova bigs that he should be able to control the boards.
This one will be a good one, and is undoubtedly appointment television. Make sure you’re tuned in, as we could be in for another Big East classic.