Rushed Reactions: Seton Hall 78, Villanova 76

Posted by Justin Kundrat on March 12th, 2016


Three Key Takeaways.

Seton Hall Shocked the World With Its Run to the Big East Title (USA Today Images)

Seton Hall Shocked the World With Its Run to the Big East Title (USA Today Images)

  1. Isaiah Whitehead proved he is the most talented player in the Big East. There isn’t a better player around when it comes to hitting clutch shots and making things happen offensively. Time and time again, head coach Kevin Willard put the ball in Whitehead’s hands and let him create something. And create he did. Tonight’s 26-point effort was the result of an endless stream of floaters in the lane, savvy moves to create space for shots, and a game-winning play down the stretch where he drew contact and finished an old-fashioned three-point play. It’s his uncanny ability to score combined with a penchant for putting his teammates in good position that makes Whitehead the best all-around player in the conference. The 6’4 sophomore has always had talent but his decision-making has caught up with his skill set. Gone are the forced passes and ill-advised shots; what remains is a heady player who now makes the right plays at the right times. Seton Hall is the clear beneficiary.
  2. Daniel Ochefu‘s injury takes away the best part of Villanova’s offenseThe 6’11” center has played in limited minutes this week due to an ongoing ankle injury, which he re-aggravated against Seton Hall tonight. Backup Darryl Reynolds was more than sufficient on the defensive end and held his own on the glass, but problems arose when it came to offense. Reynolds isn’t nearly the passer that Ochefu is, thereby eliminating the inside-out game that allows Villanova to generate open three-point shots. Instead, Seton Hall rarely doubled down on him and were quick to close out on Villanova’s shooters and force them to drive into traffic. Jay Wright will absolutely need Ochefu healthy should the Wildcats hope to make a run in the NCAA Tournament.
  3. Seton Hall will no longer surprise teams in the NCAA TournamentIn back-to-back games, Kevin Willard’s group knocked off the #5 and #3 teams in the country and now have the full attention of every media outlet and head coach from coast to coast. These statement wins have given Seton Hall its first Big East championship in 23 years but have also correspondingly put a giant target on its back. After being continuously overlooked for much of this season, this team often succeeded by playing with a chip on its shoulder, but that will change as Seton Hall will no longer catch anybody by surprise.

Star of the Game: Isaiah Whitehead. Following his 20 points and eight assists in the team’s semifinals win over Xavier, Whitehead put on a 26-point championship game performance with several key shots down the stretch that kept Villanova on its heels. It didn’t matter who Villanova chose to guard him or how they defended the screens to free him, Whitehead couldn’t be slowed down. There’s no question that the super sophomore was the reason Seton Hall claimed the Big East championship. He was duly recognized for it in being crowned the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.


  • Isaiah Whitehead on what was going through his mind before making the game-winning play: “I saw Kris Jenkins coming over and I knew that he wouldn’t be able to get in position fast enough for me to draw a charge. I just tried to lay it in on him.”
  • Whitehead on the upcoming NCAA Tournament schedule: “Whoever we play better watch out.”
  • Jay Wright on Jenkins’ final missed three-point shot: “We wanted to get it to Kris, give Kris a chance to shoot it or drive it… it just didn’t work out for us. They did a great closeout on him. They flew at him. They got up in the air and contested his shot.”
  • Wright on the takeaways from this game: “This was a tough, physical, athletic team… and I think they’re the kind of teams you meet in the Tournament.”

Sights and Sounds: It was yet another sellout crowd at the Garden, with 19,812 loud voices in attendance for tonight’s championship game. Considering the dedicated fan bases of both teams, nothing short of that number would have been expected. The final 10 minutes were an nail-biting with the arena erupting in delight on practically every made shot. It was one of the best championship games in recent memory, and, needless to say, Madison Square Garden is the best venue for such an amazing tournament.

What’s Next: Both teams will await their fate on what’s next tomorrow evening. Seton Hall will likely end up as a #6 seed but could sneak up to the #5 line with a little luck. Villanova, on the other hand, is toeing the line between a #1 and #2 seed. What’s important to both is that they retain regional preferences and can play in the Big East footprint of Providence, Brooklyn and/or Philadelphia. Villanova in particular would benefit by playing its first two games in Brooklyn and then returning home to play in the East Region in Philadelphia.

Justin Kundrat (175 Posts)

Villanova grad, patiently waiting another 10 years for season tickets. Follow Justin on twitter @JustinKundrat or email him at

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