Villanova-Seton Hall Preview

The Associated Press

As good as their outside shooting was last time out, Villanova might want to head inside for offense against Seton Hall.

The eighth-ranked Wildcats eye another easy Big East victory Wednesday night when they visit a Pirates team with a depleted frontcourt.

Villanova returned to the AP's top 10 following a week in which it won 76-73 at Butler in overtime on New Year's Eve and rolled to a 91-61 home win over Providence on Sunday.

The latest victory saw the Wildcats (13-1, 2-0) shoot a season-best 53.8 percent from 3-point range, tying a season high with 14 made in 26 attempts. They shot 59.6 percent overall, reached 90 points for the fourth time and won by at least 15 for the ninth time.

Coach Jay Wright's squad remains the only Top 25 team in the Big East.

"We try not to think about those things; try not to talk about those things," Wright said. "... If everyone is looking at us as the target, they're going to get better chasing us. We need to get better every day."

It's hard to get much better when health is an issue, and that could prevent Seton Hall (10-5, 1-1) from pulling off an upset. The Pirates have yet to play any Top 25 teams after going 0-9 against them last season but did face a previously ranked Creighton club Saturday and lost 79-66 at home.

Seton Hall was outrebounded by a double-digit margin for the second straight game, a stretch which coincides with center Gene Teague being lost to a concussion. Teague averages a conference-best 9.4 rebounds but is out indefinitely.

Additionally, 6-foot-11 backup Aaron Geramipoor has missed three of the last four games with a sprained ankle and won't return Wednesday.

The absence of Geramipoor, the only Seton Hall player taller than 6-9, leaves Brandon Mobley and Patrik Auda as the only true frontcourt players left in coach Kevin Willard's rotation.

"To ask Brandon and Patrik to do what they're doing, night after night without any help, is tough," Willard said after his team was outscored 40-20 in the paint and had only one offensive rebound against the Bluejays.

The Pirates average a Big East-low 9.5 offensive boards, and Villanova grabs a league-leading 39.4 total rebounds per game.

The Wildcats also have been very solid defensively, holding five of seven opponents below 40.0 percent from the field and averaging 9.6 steals against the last five.

"It's all about defense and rebounding," said guard Darrun Hilliard, who has a team-high 23 steals. "That's what we come into games thinking about. When shots are falling, that's when it's kind of easier for us."

Hillard had 15 points in both wins last week while second-leading scorer James Bell was held to a combined 13, nearly two below his average.

Seton Hall's thin frontcourt could lead to Villanova top scorer JayVaughn Pinkston frequently driving the lane. He's third in the Big East with 96 free-throw attempts, making 74, and he averaged 20.5 points last week.

"He just keeps getting better and better as a player and, most importantly, as a young man," Wright told the team's official website. "... JayVaughn is becoming a complete player."

Sterling Gibbs averages a team-best 15.9 points for Seton Hall, which halted a 10-game losing streak to Villanova with a 66-65 win Feb. 25. Fuquan Edwin's late 3-pointer was the difference and he had 18 points, but the senior has averaged 7.3 on 9-of-26 shooting over his last three games.

What to Read Next