The Big East Championship game is on Fox today at 6:30 EST between the Seton Hall Pirates and the Villanova Wildcats. Seton Hall comes into this game locked into the NCAA tournament, as does Villanova. I think it is fair to say that this game could move either team up or down a seed based on the outcome. Villanova is currently projected around the 5-6 seed while Seton Hall can be found anywhere from an 8 seed to a 10 seed. Both teams obviously want to use this championship to boost their tournament resume and for future conference bragging rights.
Pirates Red Hot
Seton Hall comes into this game on a four-game winning streak that includes two wins over Marquette and a 4 point win at home over Villanova. I expect to see the Pirates really focus on rebounding on the offensive end, as that is clearly what helped them in the second matchup. Seton Hall outrebounded the Wildcats 35 to 30, which is not nothing, but it’s not that significant. However, when you look closer, you will see that the Pirates had 18 offensive rebounds to their 17 defensive rebounds. That is also 9 o-rebounds more than Villanova had in that game. That is game changing and I think they need to do everything they possibly can to repeat this performance. I think that this will be a rather tough thing to reproduce, seeing how Seton Hall is the 126th best offensive rebounding team in the country at 10.6 boards a game. That does not inspire confidence.
In the second matchup between these two teams, both teams shot 13-27 from the three-point line. I do not expect either team to be able to repeat this performance, which also tells me that we could see a much lower score in this spot. We did see Seton Hall get to the line 50% more often than the Wildcats and assist 17 shots to Villanova’s 11. Both of those stats indicate that the Pirates had better ball movement and were the more aggressive team. Those are two signs that are really solid for Seton Hall backers.
The first game was NOT good for the Pirates. They shot 34% from the field while the Wildcats again shot over 40% from the three-point line. I think that both of these were outlier performances, but Villanova also had more rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks, along with less turnovers. At this point, Seton Hall was just 12-8 and not nearly as good as they appear now, so take this game with a grain of salt.
Villanova Battling Fatigue
One of the biggest things to watch out for in this game is the conditioning of these players. This is their third game in as many days and both teams run rather short rotations. Villanova only really wants to play 6 guys, but they will play 7 in most games if there is not foul trouble. Seton Hall often plays 9 guys, but 2 are only going to play a combined 15-20 minutes, so their starters are also seeing 30+ minutes. This is more concerning for Villanova, as they are a team that can rely on three-point shooting a lot at times. 3 of their five starters played over 40 minutes yesterday and one of the players that didn’t only didn’t due to foul trouble. I would not be surprised if we see the Wildcats come out kind of slow to start the game.
I think that Seton Hall is much improved and this game should be really close on a neutral site. The Wildcats are a more talented team, but I think the overtime game and lack of depth can come back to bit them in this spot. I think I’d give Nova the slight edge here, but I can’t pass up the 4.5 points on Seton Hall here.