#6 Villanova Wildcats (23-2) vs. Seton Hall Pirates (15-10)
When: Monday, February 16, 2015, at 7 p.m.
Where: The Pavilion
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
Result of Previous Meeting: Villanova lost 66-61 in OT at Seton Hall on January 3
Key Players for Seton Hall: #4 Sterling Gibbs (6-2, 185) Jr., G; #15 Isaiah Whitehead (6-4, 210) Fr., G; #31 Angel Delgado (6-9, 225) Fr., G
Scouting Report: The Pirates are self-destructing. It’s unclear if they should be more worried about their competition or for themselves. Their fall from grace hasn’t been one with style. Since their wonderful week of upsets, when they took down then-ranked #15 St. John’s and #6 Villanova, Seton Hall has struggled to replicate that same success. The Pirates are 3-8 since receiving the pair of big wins. Aside from their slide, a lot has changed since the first meeting. Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall’s prized five star recruit, is back. He missed a good chunk of the season due to injury. Head coach Kevin Willard hoped that Whitehead’s return would help stop the bleeding, but since coming back, the Pirates have lost four straight. On the bright side, he has been producing. Through 16 games of action, Whitehead averages 12.3 points per game. He can take shots from anywhere on the floor. In their previous game, he had a solid 20-point game in a loss to Providence on Saturday. Sophomore guard Jaren Sina informed the team of his decision to leave and potentially transfer out. News of Sina’s departure came after the team’s 86-67 loss to Georgetown on February 10. Sina started 23 games for Seton Hall this season, averaging 7.0 points per game and 2.3 assists per game. He shot 32% from long range. Sterling Gibbs, the team’s leading scorer, has tried to keep the ship afloat. Gibbs has scored in double figures in nine of the last 11 games. He’s averaging 16.9 points per game, third-best in all of the Big East. Teams have to respect his shot and his ability to get to the basket. Gibbs is a talented scorer and a pretty efficient one too. He shoots 44.1% overall and 45.1% from three point range. As for the guys inside, Angel Delgado and Brandon Mobley provide a nice mix of youth and experience. Delgado, a freshman, plays with enough grit to compensate for his lack of height in the post. He is a scrappy player in the post, regularly fighting for rebounds. Delgado averages just under a double-double. He has 9.2 points per game and 9.9 boards per game. In each of the last three games, he has grabbed at least 12 rebounds. On the other hand, Mobley is a senior who has played a good amount of minutes in each of his four years at Seton Hall. Mobley gives Seton Hall another scoring option inside and he can even stretch the floor out a bit. The senior forward averages just under 10 points per game and is actually very good from the free throw line. This season, he has made a team-high 82.5% of his foul shots. Also keep an eye out for the pair of freshmen, Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez. Carrington and Rodriguez contribute productive minutes off the bench. Carrington is a great slasher and had a solid 17-point performance against the Wildcats. Rodriguez may not score that many points, but he’s a forward that can grab rebounds.
Outlook: It’s a tumultuous time for the Seton Hall Pirates. Issues in the locker room drove Jaren Sina to leave the program. There are reports of a divide existing between the freshmen and the veterans of the team. This was further evidenced by the rising tensions between freshman Isaiah Whitehead and junior Sterling Gibbs during the Georgetown game. Both players had to be separated from each other during a time out. As unfortunate as it is for Kevin Willard and his players, this is only looking better for Villanova. The Wildcats’ team-first mentality is the perfect counter to the Pirates’ me-first mindset. There is a lot of unrest in South Orange, New Jersey. This is not the same confident team that Villanova faced in January. Putting all chemistry issues aside, we learned two things that day. Villanova wins if they nail a couple of their many missed foul shots and that Kevin Willard doesn’t really have an answer for Daniel Ochefu. Lately, the Wildcats seem to be doing well in the free throw department. As for Ochefu, Seton Hall had a great game plan for the perimeter, but did not see the junior center’s breakout game coming. Villanova is looking more and more complete with each game. They may enter this game ranked the same, but they have improved since that fateful January day. I see Seton Hall’s losing streak continuing, while Villanova’s winning streak at the Pavilion continues.