Two of the apparent frontrunners in the Big East will square off Saturday at 2 p.m. ET on CBS when No. 15 Seton Hall (9-2, 0-1) hosts No. 22 Villanova (8-4, 1-1) in a battle between two of the conference’s four ranked squads. The Pirates are a perfect 7-0 at home but will have their hands full with a Wildcats squad that has spent ample time playing in hostile environments this season. Villanova has won three straight in the series, but two of those meetings were decided by just two points, and it would be no surprise if this one is also a thriller.
Seton Hall dropped its Big East opener 70-65 at No. 21 Providence on Wednesday, but the Pirates are off to a great start that includes wins over Michigan and Texas, both of whom were top-10 teams at the time. 12th-year coach Kevin Willard has the luxury of a veteran-laden roster led by senior back court players Jared Rhoden, Bryce Aiken and Myles Cale. Seton Hall is a poor 3-point shooting team, but it’s among the best at defending the 3-point line and is among the nation’s best at reaching the free-throw line.
Villanova lost its Big East opener 79-59 at Creighton on Dec. 17 but got back to .500 in league play with a 71-58 win over Xavier on Dec. 21. This will be the Wildcats’ first game since then after their scheduled Wednesday game against Temple was wiped out by COVID-19 issues with Temple. It’s been a bumpy ride this season for Villanova, as the Wildcats have struggled at times with a lack of depth and rim protection. But this is a veteran-laden team that began the season ranked No. 4 for a reason and it should still be a force in the Big East.
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Villanova vs. Seton Hall prediction, picks
Villanova is incredibly reliant on 3-pointers, ranking 20th nationally with 28.7 long-range attempts per game. For a team that plays at a slow pace, the treys account for a staggering portion of its offense. It’s been a recipe for success in the past, but against Seton Hall it’s a risk. Opponents are shooting just 26.1% against the Pirates from deep this season, which means Seton Hall is No. 12 nationally in 3-point shooting defense. Look for the Pirates to stifle Villanova’s outside shooters and use their physicality on offense to get the Wildcats in foul trouble. Prediction: Seton Hall 72, Villanova 66
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