‘Cats look to win in New Jersey

Matt Clark

This Saturday Villanova (14-10, 6-5 in Big East) will travel to Continental Airlines Arena to take on Seton Hall (16-7, 6-5). Seton Hall is on a two-game losing streak, but is still in the race to make the NCAA Tournament in March.

Offense: The Pirates average 72.7 points per game with a .466 field-goal shooting percentage. Andre Barrett is the team leader averaging 17.7 points and six assists per game. He’s smart at handling the basketball, makes good passes and hits the open shot. He’s a big-time point guard. Barrett, however, is not the only offensive weapon this team has. Against Rutgers, five Pirate players reached double figures in points. In fact, four starters are averaging double figures for the season. Center Kelly Whitney is shooting 58 percent from the floor. The Pirates average only 13 turnovers a game and have a 70 percent free-throw average. Also, good news for the ‘Cats, Seton Hall managed just three field goals during a stretch of over 13 minutes in the second half in its loss to Boston College on Monday. The Wildcats average 72.8 points per game with four starters averaging in double digits. They shoot 46 percent from the field, however it usually takes the ‘Cats at least a half to get going; most of Villanova’s points come in a second-half catch up attempt. ‘Nova shot only 28 percent in the first half against a dismal Mountaineers team and averaged seven three-pointers and 15 assists per game. On paper Villanova looks strong, but when it’s time to play, they fold; eight of their 10 losses are by 10 points or less. When Randy Foye, Mike Nardi, and Allan Ray combine for 50 percent on field goals and all reach double figures, Villanova wins.

Advantage: Pirates

Defense: Seton Hall is just as strong on the defensive end of the court as they are on the offensive. They give up only 63.7 points per game and against No. 11 Louisville the Pirates only gave up 80 points. As a defensive unit Seton Hall holds teams to just 39 percent from the field. Teams usually attack the middle because when it comes to perimeter defense, Seton Hall is second best in the Big East allowing only five three point shoots per game. Seton Hall is a small team underneath. Whitney is only 6-foot-8-inches and the forwards are only 6-foot-6-inches. The Pirates still manage 37.7 rebounds per game.Villanova was once a strong defensive team. Down low teams seem to be beating up Curtis Sumpter and Jason Fraser, as the guards look lost, always leaving someone open on the perimeter. ‘Nova gives up just as many three-pointers as it makes, but the opponents get them at key moments of the game. The ‘Cats hold teams to 69 points per game and a 40 percent field goal shooting, yet are at the bottom of the Big East with only six steals per game.

Advantage: Pirates

Bench: The Pirates have one of the best bench teams in the Big East. J.R. Morris is averaging 22.3 minutes per game off the bench and adds 11.4 points and 4.2 rebounds to each game. Six-foot-10-inch freshman, Grant Billmeier gives the Pirates much needed size off the bench, Jamar Wise gives Seton Hall speed, and senior Damion Fray donates a leadership to the court.

The Wildcats have a very diverse bench. Four of their non-starters average double-digit minutes per game, being lead by Will Sheridan with 21. Sheridan has become the leading sixth man as of late contributing five points and five rebounds per game. As a bench unit Sheridan, Andreas Bloch, Derrick Snowden and Chris Charles add 12 rebounds per game, but only 14 points per game. Morris for Seton Hall has been known to score more than that in one half. Bloch is obviously the offensive weapon, the 6-foot-8-inch forward has 16 three-pointers this season.

Advantage: Even

Prediction: Pirates by 5.