Losers of three of their last four, playing at Butler is not what the doctor ordered for No. 24 Seton Hall (13-5, 3-3), who will likely slide out of the top-25 on Monday.
Kevin Willard has won just one of four games against the Bulldogs (14-6, 4-3) since the beginning of last season and his team has consistently looked a favorable matchup for Butler's personnel. Dropping two games in a row at home also puts the onus on Seton Hall to steal one on the road.
"We're going to have to win some on the road," said Willard post-DePaul. "I break it [the Big East season] down into quarters and halves. We're 3-3 in the first third of the season [...] It's a long, long conference season. I'm not looking at Butler and saying "Boy if we don't win this one we're in trouble." I'm looking at it saying first third we're 3-3, now we've got to move onto the second third. Until we get Isaiah [Whitehead] back, to be honest with you, we're playing with house money right now, where our record is."
Star freshman guard Isaiah Whitehead is extremely doubtful with the news that he may be sidelined until DePaul on February 3rd.
Despite having a young team, Willard says that his more experienced players need to play like it going forward.
"We have sophomores that have played a lot of minutes, a junior that has played a lot of minutes, a senior, two freshmen. Yeah we're young, we play very young at times, but those guys need to play a little bit older. The older guys need to play a little bit more mature, they can't get rattled in games. It's an uncharacteristic night, they've got to learn from it. We're not getting any older until next year, the guys that do have experience need to play a little bit better in those situations."
Sunday's clash with Butler has the look and feel of one of those situations.
Since they last met less than two weeks ago, Butler has lost a two-point game at Georgetown (Isaac Copeland hit a go-ahead three with seconds to play) and narrowly knocked off Creighton at home. The Bulldogs' offense hasn't been great during the two-game stretch since impressing against Xavier and Seton Hall prior, but Roosevelt Jones has continued to shine with 28 against the Hoyas and 18 (and 6 assists) against the Bluejays. Kellen Dunham was just 3 of 10 from three over the two games after Sterling Gibbs did a decent defensive job on him at the Rock.
To refresh your memory, Butler supplemented a 1.13 points per possession by controlling the glass and living off second chance points at Prudential Center. Jones and Dunham did the scoring while forward Andrew Chrabascz chipped in with 12 points and Kameron Woods added ten rebounds (five offensive). Angel Delgado, now 9th in offensive rebounding percentage, will take a shot at besting the six offensive boards that he collected in the first clash with Butler.
Three things to watch:
Taken from a longer Q&A with ButlerHoops.com
This is a tough one because Butler really has Willard and Seton Hall's number right now. The first game was fairly even outside of battle on the glass, but I think that's one that Butler will win against Seton Hall 8 out of 10 times.
Offensively, Seton Hall probably won't get 50 from Gibbs and Carrington on Sunday and they don't have Whitehead, so they're going to be looking to get out in transition. They've also scored 15 points that way over the last two games (7 against Butler) and turned it over a lot trying to do so against DePaul. That has to change with limited options offensively and the 18th-most efficient defense waiting in Indianapolis.
Defensively, they need to stop Roosevelt Jones. Dunham got his points but he had to work for them (Gibbs did a solid job), but Jones was able to drive at will. Seton Hall's help defense was pretty poor against DePaul and will need to be better if they're going to draw a charge or shut off Jones.
Series history (SHU 1-3):
Jan. 13, 2015, Butler 79, SETON HALL 75(ot), Newark, N.J.
March 12, 2014, SETON HALL 51, Butler 50, New York, N.Y.
March 8, 2014, Butler 71, SETON HALL 54, Indianapolis, IN
Jan. 29, 2014, Butler 64, SETON HALL 57, Newark, N.J.
KenPom says: No. 28 Butler 67, No. 45 Seton Hall 61 (26%)
Projected Butler starters:
PG - Alex Barlow
SG - Kellen Dunham
G - Roosevelt Jones
F - Andrew Chrabascz
F - Kameron Woods
When: 3et, Sunday
TV: MSG locally, FSN nationally (check here)
Radio: 970 AM/Sirius 108/XM 201
Opening line: TBD