The Big East is Villanova and everyone else, but there are a slew of teams just behind the Wildcats with these two part of that bunch. Seton Hall was run off the cOurt at Creighton on Wednesday, while Xavier dealt with St. John’s in a tougher than expected contest.
Winning on the road has been a problem for just about every team in the Conference and that’ll be Xavier’s quest in this one, having lost at Providence and Villanova most recently. As a positive, the Musketeers won at Marquette in the end of December, so they’ve at least shown they can do it.
That said, Seton Hall has been hard to take down at the Prudential Center, already with wins against Creighton and Butler, among others. The Pirates have had numerous issues on the road, getting blown out in their last two, but that’s not a factor for this Game.
The good news for Seton Hall is that its defense shouldn’t hurt it too much in this Game. In losses, the Pirates failed to show up on the defensive end and allow a below average 37 percent from distance. Xavier’s ineffectiveness behind the arc should help with Trevon Bluiett and Kaiser Gates its only players that shoot better than 35 percent from distance. The Musketeers are coming off a Game in which they went 14-of-26 from deep, but they’ve been extremely inconsistent on the road. J.P. MACura is the other shooter and the team’s second leading scorer with 12.5 points per Game, but he’s totaled just 14 points in the last two on the road.
Given how this team has looked away from home, there’s little reason to trust Xavier. Bluiett’s offense relies greatly on shooting and the same goes for Gates. If the shots aren’t falling, the Musketeers have trouble scoring and a lot of that has to do with pass-first point guard Quentin Goodin, who can’t create for himself. The guy that’s seen an uptick in numbers is big man Kerem Kanter, who’s averaging close to 20 points and 10 boards in the last Four Games. If he can post those kinds of numbers, that’d be big.
However, stacking up rebounds against double-double MAChine Angel Delgado won’t be easy. Delgado will be hungry to return to form after getting nothing done in Wednesday’s loss at Creighton. The bigger matchup may end up being Desi Rodriguez on Bluiett. Both guys lead their teams in scoring and both mostly play at the three spot. The difference is that Rodriguez has a few extra pounds and gets more shots in the paint. There’s a good chance he attacks Bluiett plenty, forcing Xavier’s top scorer to play more defense than he wants.
The other advantage for the Pirates comes in the backcOurt between Khadeen Carrington and Myles Powell. Both guys can fill it up from deep, but also have the ability to attack on almost any defender. Xavier’s defense ranks better than Seton Hall’s in terms of efficiency, but still allows poor percentages from the field.
Seton Hall lacks depth with only Four guys that average more than 5.3 points, but so far in home Games, that’s all this team has needed. Xavier has a bit more balance, but also has the same top guys that lead the way on the scoreboard. With how the Musketeers have looked on the road in recent Games, there’s no reason to believe they’ll be able to deal with Delgado down low or Carrington and Powell on the perimeter in this one.
Our Pick – Xavier +2