Inside the Enemy Ship: Villanova Wildcats

Georgetown vs Villanova

Welcome the latest edition of “Inside the Enemy Ship”! Later today, the Seton Hall Pirates will be at the Pavilion taking on the Villanova Wildcats. With several notable games being played between these two teams in the past few seasons, this date has been circled on the calendar of countless Seton Hall fans since it was first announced. For this edition, we had the pleasure of talking to Larry Flynn, a Junior at Villanova who writes for their newspaper, The Villanovan.

BBA: When the season started, where did you see the Wildcats’ season going?
FLYNN: The Wildcats lost some veteran leadership in the departures of seniors Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston, and I expected it to show early. Although Villanova added the talent of Jalen Brunson and would see role players like Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins step into starting jobs, I thought they would endure some growing pains early. Then, against either Oklahoma or Virginia, I thought the Wildcats would finally reassert their dominance as an elite team in the NCAA and secure a critical win against a top-10 team. Then, they would find their stride entering conference play and once against dominate the Big East. As you can see, I was both right and wrong depending on the topic. I also thought this team was set to improve defensively. Several players told me before the season that their training camp was focused on the defensive end. They did, however, recognize that it would be harder to rebound the ball, something which has been an ongoing issue for the Wildcats and could hurt them against the tenacious rebounding of Seton Hall.

BBA: What do you think of the teams (as of writing) 12-2 record
FLYNN: Villanova may have, uncharacteristically, a “2” in the loss column following non-conference play, but this team is comfortable where it is right now. The Wildcats received a much-needed wake-up call courtesy of Oklahoma, and lost a close game on the road against a top-3 ACC team. Instead of coasting through non-conference games like they did last season, Villanova is finally battle-tested heading into conference play. That being said, the Wildcats have only won one significant game against an elite team. And this one game has an asterisk, in some people’s minds. Last week, #6 ranked Xavier traveled to the Pavilion looking to take away the Big East Champions crown but, instead, watched Edmond Sumner leave the game on a stretcher.

BBA: Beside St. Joseph’s University, who would you consider Nova’s biggest rival?
FLYNN: Although St. Joe’s has the geographic rivalry, Villanova’s biggest rival will always be the Georgetown Hoyas. It’s an interesting rivalry, dating back to 1985 when the Wildcats played “The Perfect Game” and, led by Ed Pickney, shocked the world with an upset win over Patrick Ewing and the Hoyas. Today, the rivalry is interesting; instead of true hate for each other’s programs (like Red Sox-Yankees in baseball), the Wildcats and Hoyas have a mutual understanding that they need one another to perform at a high level for the conference to emerge successful as a whole.

BBA: If #6 Xavier didn’t lose Edmond Sumner early in the game, do you the outcome would have still been the same?
FLYNN:Yes. There is no way that Xavier, or any team, could’ve beaten Villanova that night. Check out these shooting splits for the Wildcats:
FG%: 63%
3FG%: 52%
FT %: 91%
Some would say that Sumner would’ve been able to quiet Villanova’s 19-5 run, but I’m not so sure. In the first two possessions of the game, the Wildcats attacked the rim with a layup for Ryan Arcidiacono and a post touch and finish from Daniel Ochefu. When the Wildcats attack the rim early instead of settling for three-pointers, it is very hard to stop Villanova. That being said, Sumner would have made the game closer. The Musketeers committed an uncharacteristic 19 turnovers and some of this damage would have certainly been diminished if their primary playmaker were healthy.

BBA: Does the Big East Conference belong to Villanova?
FLYNN: Before the Xavier game, everyone was ready to crown the Musketeers the “top dog” in the Big East. But, as I kept saying, the Big East is Villanova’s to lose. There has to be another team which is able to both consistently beat Villanova and beat the rest of their Big East opponents in order to say the conference isn’t in the hands of the Wildcats. Creighton was the closest to “dethrone” Villanova two years ago by beating them twice during conference play. Since then, no other team has swept the season series during conference play. Although, yes, Seton Hall and especially your old friend Sterling Gibbs has given Villanova consistent trouble the last few years.

BBA: Which player should the Seton Hall Pirates be the most worried about meeting on the court? Why?
FLYNN: I’m going to go out on a limb and say Kris Jenkins. Sure, Daniel Ochefu has the size, but so does Angel Delgado. Yes, Josh Hart has the most complete offensive game, but he’ll go toe-to-toe with Isaiah Whitehead. But for Seton Hall defenders who can be a bit jumpy at times, the lethal pumpfake of Kris Jenkins is going to give Kevin Willard nightmares. The Pirates will need to stay disciplined defensively, especially when the Wildcats swing the ball to the weak side where Jenkins thrives on moving to the open space and making defenders pay.

BBA: Do Nova fans consider their games against Seton Hall anything special?
FLYNN: Most Villanova fans I’ve spoken with do not consider Seton Hall games a “rivalry game,” except for their obvious connection as fellow Big East opponent. These two teams, however, have an interesting relationship in their geographic proximity; a majority of students at Villanova are either from New Jersey or eastern Pennsylvania. Therefore, these winter-break matchups between the Pirates and the Wildcats are a terrific way to bring these two fan bases together. Expect to see some Seton Hall fans at the Pavilion Wednesday night.

BBA: How far do you now expect Nova to go into the NCAA Tournament?
FLYNN: “They may have floundered in the NCAA Tournament the past two years, but much of the Villanova faithful are confident that this team has a higher ceiling than in years past. The playmaking of Jalen Brunson, the length of Mikal Bridges, and the post game of Daniel Ochefu are all key ingredients which, fans hope, can propel the Wildcats back into the Final Four. It all comes down to consistency for the Wildcats. Which team will show up the first weekend in March, the sloppy, emotionless one we saw against Oklahoma or the dominant, assertive team that annihilated Xavier? If the Wildcats attack the basket, lock down the perimeter, and remain focused on the glass for 40 minutes, I could see this team making it to the Elite Eight. Realistically, a Sweet Sixteen birth sounds appropriate.

BBA: Final Score Prediction?
FLYNN: Villanova wins, 80-68

Larry Flynn is a junior English major at Villanova University. Follow him on Twitter @LFlynn_NBANOVA. Be sure to watch the game on FS1 at 7 PM tonight. As always, Hazard Zet Forward.


Pirates Open Up Conference Play, Dispatch Golden Eagles

Photo Provided Courtesy Of Madeline Wilson

The Seton Hall Pirates opened Big East play against the Marquette Golden Eagles. Prior to this game we had the privilege of talking to Jack Goods. Jack provided us with some great info. You can see his answers to our questions in our previous post. Jack told us some things to watch for and really helped us with our research on the Marquette Golden Eagles. Jack told us to watch for Luke Fischer and Henry Ellenson, the two big men for Marquette. He anticipated that Marquette would try and get the ball in their hands as much as possible and he was definitely right. After a tight start to the game, the Pirates came out with an 83-63 victory.

The first half was a very closely contested affair. The Pirates led for most of the half but never built a solid lead. After a pair of free throws by Desi Rodriguez, the Pirates led by 11, which was their largest lead of the first half with 14:42 to go. Haanif Cheatham and Jajuan Johnson helped Marquette cut into the lead and eventually they would take a 1 point lead into halftime. At the break the Golden Eagles led the Hall 40-39.

The Golden Eagles got a huge first half from freshman Haanif Cheatham. He led Marquette with 15 points and 2 steals. He helped cut into the lead and eventually give Marquette the lead. Henry Ellenson had a monster half on the boards as he grabbed 10 rebounds. The freshman has really been a huge player for Marquette this year. Jack Goods told us that Ellenson has generated the most noise at Marquette since Dwyane Wade. He told us that Ellenson has done it all and he is still finding his way. He will continue to get better and the rest of the Big East should be on watch. Jack proved to be quite accurate when saying Marquette should work the ball through Fischer and Ellenson. Marquette was 0-6 from 3 in the 1st half.

The Pirates were led in the first half by Desi Rodriguez with 14 points. Isaiah Whitehead added 11 points, and Khadeen Carrington chipped in 6 rebounds. Ismael Sanogo added 5 rebounds for the Hall and played stellar defense on Henry Ellenson.

The second half was all Pirates. Seton Hall wasted little time in reclaiming the lead, and then took over in the second half to dominate the Golden Eagles. With 7:39 remaining in the game, Duane Wilson hit two free throws to cut the lead to 9. From there the Pirates went on a 14-3 run to pull away for good. The Pirates played a great game despite committing 20 turnovers on the night. Ismael Sanogo and Khadeen Carrington had big dunks in the 2nd half. Isaiah Whitehead distributed the ball well, and the Pirates cruised to an 83-63 win.

The Pirates were led overall by Desi Rodriguez. The sophomore tallied 19 points and 5 rebounds. Khadeen Carrington added 17 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals. Isaiah Whitehead chipped in 16 points and 7 assists, and Angel Delgado added 11 points and 11 rebounds. As previously mentioned, Ismael Sanogo did a great job defending Henry Ellenson down low.

Marquette was led by Haanif Cheatham with 17 points. Freshman Henry Ellenson posted 13 points and 14 rebounds. He is a force to be reckoned with in the Big East. Luke Fischer added 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Marquette was ice cold in the second half as they only put up 23 points.

With the loss the Golden Eagles drop to 10-3 on the year and 0-1 in Big East play. The loss snaps the 9 game winning streak for Marquette. With the win the Pirates improve to 11-2 on the season and 1-0 in the Big East. Marquette will head to Washington D.C. to take on Georgetown on Saturday. The Pirates will head home to take on DePaul on Saturday.

Big thanks again to Jack Goods for all his help. He is a tremendous journalist and a great person to follow on twitter. He can be found at @GoodsOnSports. He also writes for the Marquette Tribune. Thank you again Jack!

Check out the PPI below to see which Pirates players shined in the Big East opener. We will have full coverage of the DePaul game on Saturday. Until then, Hazard Zet Forward.

PPI vs Marquette

Inside the Enemy Ship: USF Bulls

USF - Rocky The Bull!

Welcome to another edition of “Inside the Enemy Ship”! Today, we are turning our eyes to the University of South Florida Bulls, the Pirate’s next opponent! This time, we had the pleasure of getting two USF Students, Chris (who is on Twitter @ChrisJLemus) and Andrew to get their thoughts on the upcoming game!

BBA: When the season started, where did you see the Bulls season going?
ANDREW: I thought the Bulls were going to be in rebuild mode, building off of last year and making progress
CHRIS: This is the first season where even more of the pieces added to the program would be Antigua’s, which would feature a summer offseason where he can condition the guys to play that uptempo, Kentucky-style offense he’s influenced by from his days with John Caliperi. The loss of Anthony Collins hurts, but Texas A&M fits his half-court, floor general style. Antigua, though, went out and got players like Jahmal Mcmurray, and then, Maryland transfer Roddy Peters became eligible. That being said, I expected the growth to be an increment instead of a spurt. This team is still very much fun to watch, despite the rebuilding period, because there’s an emphasis on athleticism, full court attacking, and extra touches for the post players down low if the lanes collapse after the screen is set.

BBA: What do you think of the the Bulls being in the American Athletic Conference? Is it a good fit?
ANDREW: I think the American is a good fit for the Bulls. The old Big East was an amazing opportunity, but the American affords multiple opportunities as well including guaranteed games against our bitter rival UCF. The development of SMU shows that the American is a conference to be reckoned with.
CHRIS: The American Athletic Conference offers a good challenge for USF, which keeps them aspiring for more. The AAC is good enough to be mentioned with the other power leagues such as the ACC, the B1G, and the SEC. The Bulls’ last NCAA Tournament appearance was in 2012, during a time when the Big East had Louisville, Syracuse, Marquette, and UConn. The AAC still deserves to be mentioned in the same wind as the “power” conferences. They sent a team to the national championship two out of the past three years, and sent a couple teams last year dancing. USF recruits competitively like a “power” conference. Antigua got Jaleel Cousins after previously coaching his older NBA all-star brother, and got a 5-star Maryland Terrapin in Roddy Peters to transfer after sending Rod Strickland to recruit him. All that’s left is the team competitiveness, and being in a conference like this helps.

BBA: Which player should the Seton Hall Pirates be the most worried about meeting on the court? Why?
ANDREW: Seton Hall should be most worried about the front court pair of Chris Perry and Jaleel Cousins. Both are dominate big men who have major shot blocking abilities on the defensive end while having explosive dunks on the offensive
CHRIS: Seton Hall does some good things with their guards and field goal shooting that I like to compensate for the lack of size, which has gotten them to where they are now. USF started out the year playing some great shooting teams in Boston University and NJIT, so that’s where they struggle, but they do offer size down low that has been improving exponentially. The biggest piece is Jaleel Cousins. He dropped 20 pounds over the off-season by committing to doing cardiovascular activities he didn’t like, but it paid off with his improved production this year. His basketball IQ also improved. He’s not afraid to take charges, which surprised me this year when I saw him start to put his hands down.

BBA: What do you think of the Bulls (as of time of writing) 3-8 record? How accurately does it portray your team?
ANDREW: I think it is a little bit inaccurate; at times USF has played like an 8-3 team but down the stretch they lose that composure and are unable to complete the game for a win. USF is definitely better than the 3-8 record would imply
CHRIS: The 3-8 record, on paper, looks disappointing, but the turning point isn’t expected to hit a 180 degree rotation this season or in the first 11 games. This rebuilding period is still very much a journey versus a destination. Considering this team had a 14-point lead versus Troy at home before losing and a 15-point lead versus NJIT at home before losing, it should’ve been a better start. But the 3-8 record will one day be a small reflection of the past in the overall bigger picture of success.

BBA: What do you think of current HC Orlando Antigua? Steve Masiello originally agreed to be the next HC before it was discovered he lied on his resume. Does that affect your opinion of Antigua as a “second choice”?
ANDREW: I think Orlando Antigua is a great coach. He so far has been great in recruiting and developing the talent he brings in; evidence of that is in freshman Jahmal McMurray.

To me, Antigua is not a ‘second choice’. He has experience under Calipari and has Hispanic roots, a major bonus in Tampa.
CHIRS:Masiello would’ve been a good addition, but as Orlando Antigua told the Tampa Bay Times, ‘I think I was my wife’s second choice too.’ I’ve seen him enter press conferences and take accountability after losses, and he does a good job of keeping everyone focused on the vision for a polished product while going through the motions of rebuilding a program. I like his leadership, his interaction with the local community, and his recruiting.

BBA: Final Score Prediction?
ANDREW: Seton Hall 87, USF 81
CHRIS: Seton Hall 72 USF 66

There you have it! We’d like to thank both of our friends in the Sunshine State for taking their time to talk to us!

Pirates to Play Butler at MSG

Madison Square Garden

Today at 7 PM EST, the Seton Hall Pirates will face the Butler Bulldogs at Madison Square Garden in the annual Big East Tournament, with the winner having the “privilege” to play #3 and top-seeded Villanova. In the past (and only) two meetings between Seton Hall and Butler, Butler has bested the Pirates, including the regular season finale. Senior Fuquan Edwin and company looks to put a stop to that tonight, as this could very well be his last game as a Pirate. Luckily, the Pirates have some good fortune working for them today.

Even with birthday wishes, there is no way to sugarcoat it: Butler has the Pirates’ number this season. With their latest defeat (which ensured them a losing record), it was an embarrassing 71-54 effort put forth by the boys in blue. However, as detail oriented as HC Kevin Willard is, the Pirates will almost certainly not make the same mistakes again. Seton Hall is even ever so slightly favored to win this game, and they have an entire fan base hoping they do.

While not technically an inaugural tournament, this tournament is the debut of the New Big East. Last year during the conference realignment that saw the “Catholic 7” (Seton Hall, Villanova, St. John’s, Providence, Marquette, DePaul and Georgetown) break away from the D-I football schools (USF, Cincinnati, UConn, among others) to form their own basketball centric conference. During their departure, they made sure to retain the rights to the name “The Big East” as well as the very important conference tournament at Madison Square Garden. If anyone has any doubt, just remember that this is technically the postseason, which means that anything can happen. As always, Hazard Zet Forward and go Pirates!