#6 Villanova Wildcats (13-0) vs. Seton Hall Pirates (11-2)
When: Saturday, January 3, 2015, at 12 p.m.
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
Seton Hall’s Previous Season Record: 17-17, Lost to Providence in semifinals of Big East Tournament
Key Players for Seton Hall: #4 Sterling Gibbs (6-2, 185) Jr., G; #31 Angel Delgado (6-9, 225) Fr., F; #2 Brandon Mobley (6-9, 225) Sr., F
Scouting Report: Coming into this week, Seton Hall had a tough stretch ahead of them. To open Big East play, they had to face #15 St. John’s then #6 Villanova and do so without star freshman Isaiah Whitehead. Whitehead was a five star recruit coming out of high school and has had an immediate impact for the Pirates. He’ll be missing tomorrow’s game as he recovers from a stress fracture that has caused him to miss their previous match ups with Maine and St. John’s. Despite the tall order, they upset #15 St. John’s at home and will look to take that momentum into Saturday. Sterling Gibbs was a big part of that victory. Gibbs, who spent most of last season coming off the bench, has found his way into the starting rotation and received a bigger role on the team. In the win against St. John’s, he had 25 points and eight assists. Gibbs is an excellent all-around player. He plays solid, competent defense and has great basketball IQ. Offensively, he can score from anywhere. He is comfortable with slashing his way to the basket or pulling up from the perimeter. He takes smart shots and doesn’t really try to force anything. Due to this, he has upped his shooting efficiency from last season. Gibbs is currently shooting 48.9% overall and an impressive 53.3% from long range. With such efficiency, it is no surprise that he is Seton Hall’s top player and leading scorer. His 16.3 points per game is the third highest average in the Big East. Similar to Gibbs, Brandon Mobley has taken a bigger role for the Pirates after being a weapon off the bench last season. Like Gibbs, he can score from anywhere. He is a power forward that can stretch the floor with his shooting. His 39.4% from three point range is second best to Gibbs. However, Mobley can be quite inconsistent. Just as he can score in the double digits, he can also struggle to reach ten points. Defensively, he is pretty good. During the offseason, he bulked up and put on 20 pounds. It has certainly helped him when he has to defend inside against bigger and tougher opposition. He’s coming off of a double-double, scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Another forward that also had a double-double is freshman Angel Delgado. Delgado had 13 points and 12 rebounds. He likes to work in the paint, where he fights and claws for every rebound or basket. He is Seton Hall’s top rebounder and blocker, with 9.1 boards per game and 1.5 blocks per game. As promising as the young freshman’s play seems, he is terrible from the free throw line. Delgado has made only 36.4% of his foul shots (20-for-55) this season. Also keep an eye out for Jaren Sina and Khadeen Carrington. Sina is a guard that’s been pretty quiet for the Pirates this season. In the last two games, he has scored at least 10 points and has been knocking them down from long range. He has a steady shot if he can find it. Sina sank four three pointers in the St. John’s game. As for Carrington, he has been a reliable contributor off the bench. He’s not a lethal shooter, but he is a pretty solid slasher. He can drive inside and if he gets fouled, make his free throws. Since Whitehead went down, he has stepped up his play. While Stephane Manga took the vacant spot in the starting lineup, he hasn’t been making much noise. Don’t be surprised if coach Kevin Williard goes with Carrington over Manga, especially when Carrington has played more minutes than Manga during the past two games.
Outlook: It’s safe to say that Seton Hall is excited. The win against #15 St. John’s is exactly what they needed heading into a clash with #6 Villanova. The Prudential Center was packed for the St. John’s game, it wouldn’t surprise me if the same happens tomorrow. With Whitehead out, it will allow Villanova to focus their attention to their other star player, Sterling Gibbs. Gibbs is a player that Nova Nation shouldn’t forget. He was the one who sank the shot at the buzzer to pull off the stunning upset in last year’s Big East Tournament. He sent Villanova home early, while Seton Hall moved onto the semifinals. He has improved since last season and has been an offensive catalyst. Villanova should look to shut him down and force the Pirates to look somewhere else to beat them. St. John’s wasn’t able to do that and as a result, he got things going for Seton Hall. Seton Hall will knock down some three pointers, but it shouldn’t discourage them. They should keep at Gibbs and the rest their supplemental players. The Wildcats need to draw inspiration from last season’s loss at Madison Square Garden. While Villanova was able to sweep Seton Hall in the regular season, the third time proved to be the charm for Seton Hall. Should Seton Hall cut off the perimeter like they did the last time these two teams met, it will be important to get JayVaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu going. A lot in this game will come down to the tandem up front. Seton Hall is excellent team when it comes to rebounding, but they have never faced a tougher duo inside. It was good to see them excel in the game against Butler, because Jay Wright may need to call on them again. This is their chance to avenge the early departure from the Garden and solidify their place in history. Should Villanova win tomorrow, a 14-0 start would be the best ever in program history.