#1 Villanova Wildcats (29-3) vs. #5 Seton Hall Pirates (21-10)
When: Friday, March 10, 2017, at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Madison Square Garden, N.Y.
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
KenPom Prediction: 74-63, Villanova (85%)
Results of Previous Meetings:
–Villanova won 76-46, at home on Jan. 16
–Villanova won 92-70, at Seton Hall on Feb. 18
How the Pirates Got Here: Beat Marquette, 82-73, in the Quarterfinals
Key Players for Seton Hall: #31 Angel Delgado (6-10, 240) Jr., PF/C.; #20 Desi Rodriguez (6-6, 215) Jr,. G.; #0 Khadeen Carrington (6-4, 195) Jr. G.
Scouting Report: Villanova’s road to the Big East Tournament Championship Game will go through the defending champions–how fitting. The Wildcats may have blown past Seton Hall in both meetings this season, but no team has given Villanova more problems since conference realignment. Seton Hall is the only team to have beaten Villanova in every season since 2013-14. Also, the Pirates have won each of the last two meetings at Madison Square Garden–in a thrilling Big East Tournament final last season, and then in shocking upset fashion in 2014.
The Pirates earned their right to a rematch against top-seeded Villanova after a 17-2 second half run gave them separation over Marquette, after the game was tied at halftime. That surge allowed for a 82-76 quarterfinal victory over the Golden Eagles.
The Pirates are led by a trio of juniors, and at the forefront is Angel Delgado. The star bruiser for Seton Hall has been making waves this season for what he’s done on the basketball court. He’s had 26 double-doubles this season–in just 31 games–including the one he grabbed in the quarterfinals. Against Marquette the junior big man tallied 12 points, 16 rebounds, and nine assists–just one shy of a triple-double. He’s a big inside player for Seton Hall, averaging 15.7 points per game, and 13.1 rebounds a game. As a matter of fact, he leads the entire country in rebounding.
Flanking him in the backcourt are Desi Rodriguez and Khadeen Carrington, two high-scoring skilled players at the guard position. Both Rodriguez and Carrington are top 10 scorers in the Big East, averaging over 16 points per game each. They have evolved into all-around scorers, no longer being the one-dimensional slashers they used to be. Their long range jumpers were hot to start the season and have stabilized since, but they have much-improved from the last couple of years.
Also keep an eye out for freshman Myles Powell, who was supposed to be a sharpshooting threat from deep, but he has been inconsistent. However, he did score 17 points and was a respectable 3-of-6 from deep on Thursday. Michael Nzei and Madison Jones provide solid minutes off the bench, and so does Ismael Sanogo, although a recent injury has hampered his playing time.
As a team, Seton Hall’s glaring weakness lies in the free throw line. The Pirates are 340th in free throw shooting percentage, converting a poor 63.5 percent of attempts. Coincidentally, Delgado, Rodriguez, and Carrington–the team’s top scorers–shoot just about where the team is as a whole from the foul line. Also, they are turnover prone. The Pirates are amongst the bottom half of the nation in turnover rate, coughing the ball up in 19.4 percent of possessions.
Outlook: I won’t lie, this is going to be a hard game for the Wildcats. That being said, coming off a great victory over St. John’s, and potentially adding Mikal Bridges back into their lineup could be the extra push that gets Villanova over the edge in the semi-finals. Regardless, Seton Hall isn’t going down without a fight.
“I want two rings,” Delgado said going into this tournament. “That’s my goal, having two rings back-to-back.”
It’ll be fun to watch a rematch of the championship Big East Tournament game once again set in Madison Square Garden – but could very well lead to a nail-biter the likes of which ‘Nova fans haven’t seen in quite a while. Seton Hall has provided tough matchups for Villanova in the past, and there’s no reason why Friday night won’t be another one, especially with much-higher stakes.
It will be interesting to see if Jay Wright employs a similar strategy to what he’s done against the Pirates this season. So far it’s worked, as the Wildcats have won both games by a more-than-comfortable margin.
Let Delgado go to work in the paint, accept the fact that he will most likely get another double-double, but ensure that the defensive pressure is so intense that it takes away the effectiveness of Carrington and Rodriguez. As long as Villanova locks down on Delgado’s teammates, the Wildcats should be in good shape. As good as Delgado is, he hasn’t been the primary scoring option.
It’ll be interesting to see how the two teams face off against each other, one coming from a huge, high scoring (and record setting!) victory, and another from a hard-fought win. Although both meetings were lopsided, expect a good game in a heated environment. These two teams are not fans of each other.