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.

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Louisville Poised to Exploit a Manageable Field With Talent and Maturity

Posted by Will Tucker on March 20th, 2013

With seven regular season games remaining on the schedule in mid-February, Rick Pitino called on his team to win them all. The Cardinals had just lost a demoralizing five-overtime road game to Notre Dame, capping a precipitous three-week fall that saw his team lose four of seven games and drop from #1 in the country all the way out of the top-10. While the Cardinals’ bout with the Irish was heralded by some as the game of the year for its suspense and intensity, Louisville fans shook their heads in resignation after their team choked away an eight-point lead in the final 45 seconds. The team hyped as the strongest national title contender in the Pitino era at Louisville couldn’t seem to generate enough offense outside of Russ Smith, couldn’t seem to generate the fast breaks it desperately needed, and couldn’t seem to close out games.

Chane Behanan was Montrezl Harrell's biggest fan last Saturday, watching from the bench (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Chane Behanan was Montrezl Harrell’s biggest fan last Saturday, watching from the bench (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

So Pitino made an improbable request, and his team obliged. They built momentum by overwhelming St. John’s, Seton Hall, and DePaul; they subdued arch-rival Cincinnati and achieved redemption against Syracuse and Notre Dame. All the while, their glaring weaknesses slowly gave way to the singular strengths befitting a preseason consensus Final Four pick. The Cardinals’ backcourt, the sum of whose parts had yet to coalesce, came into form once Kevin Ware began playing extended stints at point guard, as he forced turnovers on defense and relieved Russ Smith of the fatigue of ball-handling duties while Peyton Siva was on the bench. Luke Hancock, the embattled James Madison transfer whose rusty early play drew groans even from press row in non-conference home games, quietly developed into a consistent 37% three-point marksman as his ailing shoulder strengthened. Gorgui Dieng fashioned himself into the Big East’s leading rebounder in conference play and proved he could still hit an elbow jumper despite the brace on his left wrist. All the while, the Cards forced opposing defenses to stretch ever further, opening driving opportunities for Siva after months of being thwarted by aggressive hedging and dense zones. Read the rest of this entry »

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