GameNight: Seton Hall vs West Virginia

January 1st, 2009
Jan 3 2009 - 4:00pm

Preview & Prediction: By Douglas Phillabaum





When people talk about the Big East getting 9 or 10 teams into the Big Dance, you can bet they're assuming that West Virginia (10-2) and Seton Hall (9-4) are in the mix for those final NCAA Tourney bids. Both of these programs are on the upswing, with WVU having great success in the world of recruiting and SHU waiting on eligibility for a few nice transfer players. When these teams get together in the Prudential Center on Saturday, the game will mean immeasurably more to Seton Hall. For the Hall, this is a winnable home game against a respected foe, and if you look at the SHU schedule, they really only have one other game like this--Villanova on January 6th. The rest of SHU's home games will feature heavy favorites (e.g. UCONN, Georgetown, and Pitt) or conference doormats they'll be expected to beat (e.g. Rutgers, Providence, St. John's).

The Seton Hall that beat USC and played credibly against Memphis for the majority of the game has not been in evidence recently--close losses against lightly-regarded opponents show that this team hasn't focused and doesn't have a lock-down defense by any means.  SHU is a guard-dominated team and they get up and down the court quickly, but their nearly 71 ppg against is not a good statistic. Against WVU team, I'm expecting SHU to struggle  defensively. Look for WVU to put up about 75 or 80 points. SHU will be hard-pressed to score in the post, leading to plenty of opportunities for WVU to get out on the break. Senior bigman John Garcia needs to act like a traffic cop and keep the tempo slow if SHU wants to make WVU play it honest on the boards. Luckily, Garcia will be the best rebounder on the floor, but WVU has a balanced rebounding team and should have a slight advantage on the boards overall.

I'm interested to see if WVU can repeat its masterful performance against Ohio State during the Big East schedule. The utter domination of OSU would suggest that WVU is an extremely talented young team that can play with anyone in the country. True freshmen Devin Ebanks, Kevin Jones, and Derryl Bryant almost make you forget the talent that WVU has graduated in the last 3 or 4 years... WVU ended up with one of the best freshmen classes in the entire country. Yet, WVU is not a freshman-dominated team. Their best players are Alex Ruoff and DaSean Butler, the former of whom is a marksman and the latter of whom is a superb athlete. Ruoff is the kind of player that should give SHU fits--a big (6'6") guard who likes to shoot 3's and get to the line. SHU will probably try to defend him with Paul Gause, but Gause really can't score so if the Hall falls behind, they'll be hard pressed to give him a lot of time.

As big as this game could be for SHU's NCAA tournament resume, WVU really has the advantage with the matchups and Jeremy Hazell will be hard pressed to score enough to make up for a porous defense. I like WVU in this game, much like in the Syracuse-SHU game last week.

Winner: West Virginia    Margin: 7-10 pts