Sitting eighth in the Big East with an outside shot of gaining a top-6 seed in the conference tournament (and with it, a first round bye), Seton Hall (13-12, 4-8) has little to play for. Except themselves and their coach.
NCAA-bound St. John's handed Seton Hall their third straight loss last Thursday after head coach Kevin Willard decided to suspend seniors Gene Teague and Brian Oliver for what amounted to having poor attitudes. Willard's pre and post-game explanations can be read in full here, and here. The one-point loss was Seton Hall's fourth on the season, their second to St. John's, and their seventh loss decided by four points or less. Though undeniably heartbreaking, Seton Hall played St. John's tough, arguably tougher than any other team has outside of Creighton in the last month which has featured a 7-1 record in the Big East for the Red Storm.
The effort was certainly there, encapsulated in Kevin Willard's post-game disclosure that the players were brought to tears in the Prudential Center locker room after the game. Seton Hall even executed on several key out-of-timeout possessions in the second half, something we haven't seen with consistency this campaign, before floundering over the last 3:10 of the game.
In an effort to beat Georgetown (15-10, 6-7) twice for the first time since the 2002-03 season, the questions on minds of Seton Hall faithful are: Can Seton Hall bring the same intensity and cohesiveness that they did a week ago? How much did a week of rest that most certainly chilled the Pirates' short term desire hurt, or help, the team?
After losing five straight games in January, the visiting Hoyas ran off four straight wins earlier this month including a neutral court win laced with NCAA implications over ranked Michigan State before being taken to the woodshed by St. John's on Sunday. Sitting on the NCAA bubble due to three key non-conference wins away from home (VCU, Kansas State, Michigan State), Georgetown is looking at tomorrow's matchup with Seton Hall as a must win.
Georgetown held a nine-point lead against Seton Hall at the Verizon Center a month ago prior to the Pirates outscoring the home team by 19 in the second half. Seton Hall resorted to outside shooting (11-20) due to poor foul shooting (16-30) and a woeful interior game (9-31, 29%) in a game that contained an astounding 29 combined offensive rebounds. Seton Hall's offense exploded for 41 second half points (sparked by a game-high 24 from Fuquan Edwin on the day) and the Hoyas' offense wilted in the second half and has generally been their weak point in the Big East since losing star center Joshua Smith in early January due to academic issues. Georgetown fails to rank top-5 in Big East play in a single offensive KenPom category while shooting 31.9% (277th) from beyond the arc on the season.
The Hoyas fair slightly better on the defensive end, highlighted by their conference-best effective field goal percentage (47.2). While Seton Hall failed to take advantage of their numerous trips to the foul line in D.C., their frequency to get there was not a fluke: Georgetown gives up the ninth-highest percentage of total points by way of free throws (28.5%) in the country.
Tomorrow's contest will be a tough test for a Seton Hall backcourt that hasn't excelled of late and will be with a limited Brian Oliver, if he plays at all. Oliver and Gene Teague have been "fully reinstated" with the team as of this morning. Georgetown point guard Markel Starks (16.6 ppg) and shooting guard D`Vauntes Smith-Rivera (17 ppg) have done the heavy lifting for the Hoyas in the absence of Josh Smith -- no other player averages over 8 ppg. Though not particularly efficient three-point shooters, Starks (42/134, 31%) and Smith-Rivera (47/120, 39%) have collectively shot 62% of Georgetown's outside shots on the season. Former Seton Hall recruiting target Reggie Cameron, a freshman wing, is Georgetown's third-most likely to hoist from downtown (21/69, 18%). Starks, Smith-Rivera, and Cameron combined to shoot 3-15 from deep against Seton Hall last month.
For one of the few times this Big East season, Seton Hall's front court will not be significantly out-depthed tomorrow, regardless of Gene Teague's status. John Thompson III rotates upperclassmen 6-9 Mikael Hopkins, 6-8 Nate Lubick, and 6-9 Moses Ayegba, all of whom are susceptible to foul trouble, much like their backcourt teammates. Hopkins will be a tough test for senior center Aaron Geramipoor, who played quite well in the first major cameo of his career against St. John's, and Gene Teague, who had struggled prior to his suspension. Hopkins has the 51st best block percentage and the 90th best offensive rebounding percentage in the country.
If Sterling Gibbs can penetrate into the paint effectively, his bread and butter, and if Patrik Auda can get going off the dribble, Seton Hall can find success within the arc and from the free throw stripe. Three-pointers propelled the Pirates last time against Georgetown, but with the availability of sharpshooter Brian Oliver uncertain, they may need to look elsewhere for their main source of points on Thursday.
Last 10 games (GU 7-3):
Jan. 18, 2014, SETON HALL 67, Georgetown 57, Washington, D.C.
Jan. 30, 2013, Georgetown 74, SETON HALL 52, Washington, D.C.
Feb. 21, 2012, SETON HALL 73, Georgetown 55, Newark, N.J.
Jan. 18, 2011, Georgetown 80, Seton Hall 75, Newark, N.J.
Jan. 14, 2010, Georgetown 85, Seton Hall 73, Washington, D.C.
Jan. 25, 2009, SETON HALL 65, Georgetown 60, Newark, N.J.
Feb. 2, 2008, Georgetown 73, SETON HALL 61, Washington, D.C.
Jan. 19, 2007, Georgetown 74, SETON HALL 58, East Rutherford, N.J.
March 9, 2005, Georgetown 56, SETON HALL 51, New York, N.Y.
Feb. 2, 2005, Georgetown 61, SETON HALL 51, Washington, D.C.
KenPom says: No. 93 Seton Hall - 69, No. 61 Georgetown - 67 (55%)
Projected Georgetown starters:
6-2 Sr., G - Markel Starks (16.6 ppg, 3.9 apg)
6-3 So., SG - D`Vauntes Smith-Rivera (17 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.8 apg)
6-7 Fr., SF - Reggie Cameron (4.4 ppg)
6-8 Sr., PF - Nate Lubick (5.4 ppg, 6 rpg)
6-9 Jr., C - Mikael Hopkins (6.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.6 bpg)
When: Thursday, 9 p.m. local time
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: AM 970 WYNM