Monday, January 5, 2009

Preview -- Seton Hall

The Wildcats continue their "road trip" with a visit to The Rock, (off campus) home of the Seton Hall Pirates on Tuesday evening. The Pirates and Wildcats have a series history that predates their Big East Conference affiliation. In the winter of 1921 the Wildcats and Pirates began a series that has over the years logged 97 matches (Villanova leads 60-37), about half of which were played between 1921 and 1980. The series has ebbed and flowed over time, the Wildcats currently ride a six game winning streak, which they put on the line at the Rock...

Common Opponents, Good Wins, Bad Losses...
The 'Cats and Pirates both played the Hawks of Monmouth University this season:

Monmouth UW (H)+23W (H)+23

Good wins include Southern Cal (PAC-10, 10-4, RPI #91) and Virginia Tech (ACC, 9-5, RPI #58). Counted among the "good" losses, a 14 point road loss to Memphis (CUSA, 10-3, RPI #22). Two bad losses are counted in the Pirates' 8-5 record, a 2 point home loss to UIPUI (Summit, 6-5, RPI #240) and a 6 point road loss to James Madison (CAA, 8-6, RPI #201)...

Lineups, Rotations...
...Functioning with a roster that contains a total of 7 scholarship players, coach Gonzalez has spread the playing time around to include a few walk-on players. He has been consistent in that he has started Eugene Harvey (Jr, 6-0, 165lbs), Paul Gause (Sr, 5-11, 188lbs) and Jeremy Hazell (So, 6-5, 185lbs) in the back court/wing. Those three have logged between 78.4% (Paul Gause) of the available minutes and 85.5% (Jeremy Hazell) of the minutes, having started virtually all of Seton Hall's games this season. A suspension of Robert "Stix" Mitchell (Jr, 6-6, 180lbs) early in the season, along with some medical issues surrounding John Garcia (Jr 6-9, 265lbs) set Gonzalez to a bit of early season experimentation. Lately he has settled on Mitchell in the front court (at the #4), with either Garcia or Mike Davis (So 6-11, 255lbs) at the #5. The starters have typicall logged between 75% and 82% of the playing time (with a few exceptions). Garcia has gotten about 47% of the available PT, while Davis has taken about 37% of that time.

Beyond the starting five, Coach Gonzalez will call on freshman guard Jordan Theodore (6-0, 170lbs) and sophomore Brandon Walters (6-9, 225lbs). Theodore has gotten 57% of the PT, while Walters has taken about 30% of the PT. After those two Coach Gonzalez will look to the walk-ons, Matt Cajuste (So, 6-7, 230lbs), Peter Peregrin (Jr, 6-0, 165lbs) and Darnell Gatling (So 5-9, 150lbs) to finish off the half or close out the game.

Villanova's staff has consistently started Cunningham and Pena in the front court, and Scottie Reynolds and Corey Stokes in the back court/wing. The fifth starting spot has gone (at various times) to Corey Fisher (through November) and Dwayne Anderson (through most of December). Junior Reggie Redding started the Marquette game, though both Fisher and Anderson logged 33 and 22 minutes respectively, to Redding's 24. Senior Shane Clark has also gotten about 41% of the available minutes so far. Those 8 have appeared in virtually every game (health allowing) this season, and can be expected to see time against the Pirates. The deeper parts of the bench, which includes senior front court player Frank Tchuisi and walk-ons Jason Colenda and Russell Wooten, can expect to see time only if things are going extremely well...or extremely badly.

By the Numbers, Offense & Defense...
Seton Hall prefers a 71.8 possessions-per-game pace (ranked at #45, according to SHU Scout Page). They run a better-than-average offense (105.8 adjusted, ranked #86 -- that is about 1.06 points per possession) and a very average defense (100.1 adjusted, ranked #169 -- that is about 1.00 point per possession). Taking (Oliver's) four factors into account:
When Seton Hall has the ball...
Pirate O48.018.633.729.9
Wildcat D45.

SHU is better shooting 2s than 3s. This could be good news for the Wildcats, given their last few outings. The Hall takes good care of the ball while Nova forces turnovers, pace aside, this, and rebounding on the defensive should be pretty good barometers on the Hall's offensive efficiency. The Pirates don't get to the line much, while Villanova has had a few 40+ foul games (both teams...) this season. Seton Hall does not rely much on the line, and that should work to Villanova's favor. SHU's relatively average shooting efficiency (they are ranked #194, just below average) can be attributed to 3 point shooting. They are ranked #304 in EFGM% (29.4%), and Jeremy Hazell aside (he takes about 45% of their 3FGAs...) the team shoots a very mediocre 25.2%. So the Pirates will look to score inside, and look for Hazell 1st (inside or outside), followed by Stix Mitchell and then Harvey (the latter two on the inside). Garcia and Davis are the most efficient scorers on the team (not to mention the best rebounders), but neither gets much more than "role player" touches in the SHU offense (mostly putbacks?).

If the 'Cats are on offense, this is what to expect...
When Villanova has the ball...
Wildcat O51.017.836.531.4
Pirate D47.922.535.846.6

The Wildcats score fairly efficiently (the best eFG% they have had in several seasons), a good sign given the Hall's fairly average (they are ranked #130 per Pomeroy's Scout Page) shot defense. Consistent with a pair of guard-oriented teams, SHU forces turnovers and Nova values the ball. Should be interesting, especially if possessions are relatively low (and the shooting is off). Nova likes to go inside (the 'Cats take 67.1% of their shots inside the arc) for their points. They take contact, and the Hall appears to foul a bit, so the Wildcats may get to the line consistently this game. That is good news for Villanova, as they typically look for about a quarter of their scoring to come from FTMs. Of course this is a road game. Villanova will most likely look for Cunningham on the inside and Reynolds on the outside (or penetrating) 1st. With second/third options going to Corey Fisher (who has had two very good games coming in...) and Corey Stokes. Clark, Anderson and Pena will chip in points along the way, but none has had a breakout night this season.

Want to Beat the Hall? Then...
1. Defend the shot. Shooting efficiency on both ends of the floor appear to be the strongest marker for victory (and defeat). When SHU's eFG% is held to < 47.0 the Pirates go 3-3. And when their opponents shot (eFG%) > 50.0, the Hall went 2-3. If Villanova shoots to their season average, and holds the Hall to (Nova's defensive) eFG%, the 'Cats should win.
2. Get (quite a) few second chance opportunities. When SHU's opponents rebounded >40.0% of their misses, the Pirates went 1-3. Nova has hit that number several times this season (Navy, Penn, Rhody, Towson...), they have yet to do it against a frontcourt with players as big as Garcia and Davis though.

...The Hall is thin, and likes to run, that is not a good combination if the players are not especially athletic. I have suggested several times that I would rather see the 'Cats draw the Pirates late in the season, after they have been worn down a bit. They don't have that luxury this season, so they will have to neutralize Garcia and Davis, keep Pena on the floor (and rebounding) alongside Cunningham.

According to Ken Pomeroy's calculations, this game should go for about 69 possessions (a bit above the D1 average), with the Wildcats taking a 7 point decision, 73-66. Given that Villanova has tended to underperform on the road this season, I would take that win in a heartbeat.


Unknown said...

Hello greyCat.

I've read or heard somewhere that the "home" team in the Big East wins about 65% of the time.

Can you verify or comment?

By the way, great preview.

greyCat said...

Hey Stan -- I "know" that stat too. But I cannot remember where I heard it first. I decided to "look it up" over at, and sure enough, if you look at last season's breakdown of BE team records, it appears to be true of conference -- the home team won about 62.5% of the time. If you consider all games, the home team winning percentage is closer to 75%.

Unknown said...

Hey greyCat,

Thanks for the info and reference site!