#11 Villanova Wildcats (12-2) vs. Seton Hall Pirates (12-2)
When: Wednesday, January 6, 2015, at 7 p.m.
Where: The Pavilion
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
Seton Hall’s Previous Season Record: 16-15
Key Players for Seton Hall: #15 Isaiah Whitehead (6-4, 210) So., G; #31 Angel Delgado (6-9, 230) So., F; #0 Khadeen Carrington (6-3, 190) So., G
Scouting Report: This is a new look Seton Hall team that is a reflection of the old adage, “addition by subtraction.” Last season was a tumultuous one for the Pirates. After reaching top 25 status, they fell apart as Big East play went along. There were reports of tension in the locker room. Aside from the players who had graduated, upperclassmen Jaren Sina (George Washington) and last season’s leading scorer Sterling Gibbs (UConn) have bolted for new homes. So who’s left? Well, Seton Hall returns its loaded sophomore class that have shown so far what a difference a year of experience makes. Half of the 14-man roster is comprised of second-year players. Isaiah Whitehead has emerged as a leader on the floor. His shooting percentages may have dipped a bit, but his scoring production is actually higher than last year. Whitehead leads the team with 15.1 points per game. He also adept at setting up his teammates and getting the ball to them on the court, boasting a team-high 4.6 assists per game. As the go-to guy on the court this year, he’s a lot more comfortable on the floor. The ball is mainly placed in his hands and he has done a great job of balancing scoring and distributing, something he has improved on since last season. He is a versatile player on both ends of the court. This is his team now.
He’ll have help from fellow sophomore guards Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez. Carrington was limited to being primarily a slasher-type guard last season. His jump shot has been steadily improving with time and he’s been able to occasionally nail three-pointers this season. His 19 threes are already more than he had all of last season. He is still best at attacking the basket and driving inside, but he’s starting to open up his game on offense. Carrington is behind Whitehead with 13.9 points per game. As for Rodriguez, it’s not certain whether or not he will play against Villanova yet. He got into a confrontation with head coach Kevin Willard in the DePaul game. Seton Hall won down the stretch without Rodriguez, and afterwards Willard wasn’t certain if he would play on Wednesday night for his behavior. If he does play, Rodriguez is a threat on both ends of the court. He’s a tough defender, and on the other end he takes smart shots and knocks them down. He has taken strides to improve his game and it’s paying off. He’s doubled his scoring output from his freshman year.
Inside, the paint will be monitored by Angel Delgado. Delgado is a tenacious rebounder and a scrappy player inside. At 6-foot-9, there are definitely taller forwards and big men out there. However, he is still able to produce. Against Marquette and its loaded front court, he was able to score 11 points and grab 11 rebounds. Although he averages just a shade under a double-double with 9.7 points and 10.8 rebounds, he’s been racking up double-doubles left and right. The sophomore forward enters Wednesday with a streak of seven straight double-doubles. The one downside to his game is that he struggles on the free throw line, where he is shooting just 52.2%. Delgado will be accompanied inside by Ismael Sanogo, a 6-7 guard that can also play at the forward position. Sanogo doesn’t add much to the scoreboard, but he is an excellent rebounder and defender inside. He averages 7.2 boards per game.
Lastly, keep an eye out for Derrick Gordon. Gordon is playing in his first season as a Pirate after transferring in from UMass. Gordon plays a lot of minutes off the bench and can do a little of everything. He can chip in points here and there and grab rebounds. He’s mainly a slasher-type guard and struggles with hitting his jumpers.
Outlook: Seton Hall is no doubt in a better place than what it was at the end of last season. Whitehead is living up to his potential as a five-star recruit and Angel Delgado is an excellent player in the paint. Next year, I see this team being a problem, once the crowded sophomore class comes back with another year of experience. For now, they are not yet there.
Villanova should win this one pretty handily in the comforts of the Pavilion. Josh Hart and Daniel Ochefu are coming off of big games. If you’re Kevin Willard, I’m not sure if you key in on chasing the ‘Cats off the three-point line or if you shut down the paint. The Wildcats have been on the upside since losing to Virginia and that should continue through Wednesday. In each game since that loss, at least three Wildcats have scored in double figures. Jay Wright has had his squad do it in a variety of ways through different players. Villanova should pull out the victory, and then focus on the tough task ahead with a road game against Butler.