Men set for redemption and a rivalry
For the first time this season the Pirates will be going for their fourth straight Big East victory when they take a trip south to West Virginia on Saturday afternoon.
Seton Hall will be looking to erase the memory of a 90-84 overtime loss at the Mountaineers earlier this season.
In that loss, junior guard Jeremy Hazell’s 41 points were not enough to take down the then No. 6 ranked Mountaineers. West Virginia has since dropped two spots in the national rankings, leaving them ranked eighth.
Since beating the Pirates on Dec. 26, West Virginia has only lost four games overall. Three of those Mountaineers’ losses were against teams that are currently ranked in the Top 25 AP Poll, including No. 3 Villanova, No. 4 Purdue, and No. 5 Syracuse.
Last Friday the Mountaineers lost in triple overtime at Pittsburgh.
The strong offensive play of senior forward and Newark native Da’Sean Butler has led West Virginia to their wins.
He is averaging 18 points a game and is one of three players for the Mountaineers that have over 100 boards on the season with 149.
Kevin Jones leads West Virginia in rebounds with 185, while Devin Ebanks is third on the list with 173.
Only one Seton Hall player has over 100 total rebounds, sophomore guard Herb Pope.
Pope leads the Big East in total boards with 253, and is averaging more rebounds per game than any other player in the conference with 11.
The story is a little different for the Pirates. Seton Hall has won only five of 12 games that they have played since their loss to the Mountaineers.
In that 12 game stretch Seton Hall managed to go on one, four game losing streak and another skid lasting three games. Two of the losses, like West Virginia, were against Villanova and Syracuse.
Largely in part to their play during that stretch, the Pirates, according to many, went from a team worthy of a spot in the NCAA Tournament, to now being nearly on the bubble.
After facing the Mountaineers on Saturday, Seton Hall will travel back to Newark on Tuesday to play their long time rival Rutgers for the first time this year.
Both teams have almost identical in-conference records. Rutgers is 5-9 while the Pirates, who have played one less game, are at 5-8.
Rutgers will look to defeat the Pirates for the first time since the final game of both teams’ 2007-2008 regular season campaign.
Since that 64-61 loss after J.R. Inman’s last second three pointer, Seton Hall’s two consecutive victories against the Scarlet Knights have been rather close games.
Both matches the Pirates won were by a combined margin of eight points, 70-67 and 65-60.
Currently Rutgers is riding a three game winning streak, including an upset win against the then No. 7 ranked Georgetown Hoyas, going into their Saturday matchup against Connecticut.
The Scarlet Knights have only one player averaging over 15 points a game, sophomore guard Mike Rosario.
Rosario is the only player that represents Rutgers on the top 25 individual scoring leaders list for the Big East with 16 points per game.
Junior guard Jeremy Hazell is second on that list to Notre Dame’s All American forward Luke Harangody, averaging 22 points per game.
After Rutgers, the Pirates play their final home game on Feb. 28 against Marquette.
Nicholas Parco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.