Three days after being taken behind the woodshed by Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse, Seton Hall will have their back against the wall that separates the bottom half of the Big East conference from the top when they take on Marquette on Wednesday night.
Sitting at 3-4 in league play, dropping to 3-5 in Milwaukee would leave the Hall (13-6, 3-4) two games out of the top-5 (5-3 record or better). A loss would then make Saturday's home game against Xavier a must-win, especially with the Musketeers directly above Seton Hall in the standings. Splitting the pair of games against the Golden Eagles and Xavier is the bare minimum to keep the Pirates' ship afloat before a potential Isaiah Whitehead return against DePaul. Note that Kevin Willard said post-Butler that guard Khadeen Carrington is nursing an ankle injury that stiffened up on him in the second half.
Marquette (10-9, 2-5) has also lost four of their last five, but have looked a lot better doing so. All four losses finished within a possession or two including road tests at Xavier, Georgetown, and St. John's. Marquette most recently took Georgetown to overtime on Saturday by way of 26 points from both Matt Carlino and Duane Wilson. Like Seton Hall, the Golden Eagles' only win over their last five has come against Creighton.
In order to get the ball rolling in the right direction again, Seton Hall must snap an 0-7 all-time record at the BMO Harris Bradley Center and a 1-13 record against Marquette since 2006. The Hall's two seniors, Brandon Mobley and Haralds Karlis, are 0-5 against the Golden Eagles during their four-year careers.
After falling to 4-4 following a 49-38 loss to Wisconsin, Marquette suffered a transfer blow from Deonte Burton (6.4 ppg) who chose the transfer capital of Division I, Iowa State. The next game, incoming Indiana transfer Luke Fischer (10.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.1 bpg) bolstered a very thin frontcourt and Marquette has fared pretty well since.
With the 6-foot-11 Fischer giving first year head coach Steve Wojciechowski his first paint presence above 6-foot-7, Marquette has dropped four games by an average of four points plus a recent 10-point loss to Georgetown in overtime. Don't expect the 19- and 22-point outings that the former Hoosier produced in his first two games, but the big man is an all-important anchor for the team and sports the 56th-best block percentage after swatting five Hoya attempts on Saturday.
Outside of the paint, guards Matt Carlino (14.6 ppg, 3.3 apg) and Duane Wilson (11.8 ppg, 2.1 apg) have done the heavy lifting scoring-wise alongside pass-first senior point guard Derrick Wilson (5.8 ppg, 3.7 apg, 3.3 rpg). Always a candidate for a scoring outburst this season after tallying a Brian Oliver-like 38 against Georgia Tech earlier this season, Carlino has impressed viewers with wild shots over his last few games including a no-look over the head floater in the lane and this game-tying shot against Georgetown on Saturday. The BYU transfer is averaging 18.5 ppg in Big East play and is nine-percent better from three (50-114, 44%) compared to last season, both being big reasons why Marquette has shown the ability to trade blows with other Big East teams.
Not to be forgotten, Duane Wilson is also a potent scorer, but has only reached double figures four of seven games in the Big East. Wilson isn't an overly deadly three-point shooter at 34-percent (25-73), but has the ability to break out for a big game. Tennessee has already felt Wilson's wrath when he scored 30 and was 5 of 9 from deep while Georgetown was torched for 26 including 6 of 8 made three-pointers. That's nearly half of Wilson's made threes this season in just two games.
Connecting the guards to Luke Fischer are a pair of wings in 6-foot-6 senior Juan Anderson (9.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and 6-foot-5 sophomore JaJuan Johnson (7.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg). A starter, Anderson has only reached double figures once in Big East play, but has pulled down 6.2 rpg and has logged big minutes as an undersized four. Johnson is providing spot minutes off the bench but can make a difference as seen by his 9 points and 10 boards in a win over Providence. Of the two, Anderson (10 of 28) can make three-pointers, but isn't a huge threat.
A pair of 6-foot-7 forwards had to hold down the frontcourt fort for eight games to start the season and are now seeing time behind Luke Fischer. Junior Steve Taylor Jr. (5.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg) has seen his minutes diminish but still plays an important role off of Steve Wojciechowski's bench both behind Fischer and sometimes at the four. Just a freshman, Sandy Cohen III (4.5 ppg, 1.4 rpg) sees time at both the three and four for Marquette and is their third biggest three-point threat (16-35, 46%) behind Carlino and Duane Wilson, as billed out of high school.
As a team, Marquette embodies the fight of their head coach when he was a player, something that has kept them close in games maybe they shouldn't have been like their early trip to Ohio State and their three Big East road games. The Golden Eagles have the 12th-best steal percentage in the nation and with it turn opponents over at the 33rd-best rate; six Marquette players average at least one steal per game. Further, Wojciechowski was a point guard while a player at Duke, which partially explains maintaining the 12th-best A/FGM ratio, up from 29th last year. Four Golden Eagles average at least two assists per game.
Three things to watch:
Attacking Marquette's glass. Like DePaul (and Seton Hall), the Golden Eagles aren't very good at protecting their defensive glass at 316th in the country, a stat that has remained constant with and without Luke Fischer in the fold. Their ability to turn opponents over provides extra possessions, but giving up offensive boards counteracts that. Expect Angel Delgado to go to work after Butler held him without an offensive rebound for the first time in his career on Sunday.
Improved ball movement. Since their win over Creighton, Seton Hall has assisted on just 23 of their 65 field goals (35%), which would rank bottom in the nation if it were a season average. The Pirates have assisted at a 49-percent rate on the season (258th), but that is a number that reflects their non-conference opposition and Isaiah Whitehead. In wins over St. John's and Villanova, the Hall assisted on 18 of 23 and 8 of 22 field goals, respectively. This number has dropped due to missed shots from guys like Jaren Sina and Brandon Mobley, but has also suffered from a heavy dose of predictable high ball screens and contested shots.
An early Seton Hall surge. Kevin Willard admitted that his team was "embarrassed" at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Sunday, which should naturally provoke an outburst of energy if that feeling is harnessed by his players. After Willard challenged his team to stop playing soft, they made a run late in the first half against Butler, giving a reason to believe this team has some fight left in the tank prior to Whitehead's return. The key is finding out how to tap into those reserves of energy and fight that the team desperately needs right now. Marquette will be sure to put everything on the line tomorrow night, Seton Hall will be wise to do the same.
Series history (Marquette 13-2):
Feb. 11, 2014, Marquette 77, SETON HALL 66, Newark, N.J.
Jan. 11th, 2014, Marquette 67, SETON HALL 66, Milwaukee, Wis.
Feb. 19th, 2013, Marquette, 67, SETON HALL 46, Newark, N.J.
Jan. 16th, 2013, Marquette 69, SETON HALL 62, Milwaukee, Wis.
Jan. 31st, 2012, Marquette 66, SETON HALL 59, Milwaukee, Wis.
March 5, 2011, SETON HALL 85, Marquette 72, Newark, N.J.
Feb. 19, 2011, Marquette 73, SETON HALL 64, Milwaukee, Wis.
Feb. 28, 2010, Marquette 84, SETON HALL 83 (ot), Newark, N.J.
Feb. 17, 2009, Marquette 79, SETON HALL 67, Milwaukee, Wis.
March 12, 2008, Marquette 67, SETON HALL 54, New York, N.Y.
Feb. 12, 2008, Marquette 89, SETON HALL 64, Newark, N.J.
Jan. 8, 2008, Marquette 61, SETON HALL 56, Milwaukee, Wis.
Jan. 24, 2007, Marquette 89, SETON HALL 76, Milwaukee, Wis.
Jan. 11, 2006, Marquette 67, SETON HALL 63, East Rutherford, N.J.
March 17, 1956, SETON HALL 96, Marquette 78, New York, N.Y.
KenPom says: No. 92 Marquette 65, No. 49 Seton Hall 64 (53%)
Projected Marquette starters:
PG - Derrick Wilson
G - Matt Carlino
G - Duane Wilson
F - Juan Anderson
F - Luke Fischer
When: Thursday, 7et
TV: FOX Sports 2
Radio: 970 AM
Opening line: Marquette -2