NCAA berth in reach for men’s basketball
Putting a six-game losing streak behind them, the Seton Hall men’s basketball team is riding a three-game winning streak going into their matchup with the Cincinnati Bearcats on Saturday.
“We are playing together as a team,” freshman Brandon Mobley said. “We are picking each other up and not pointing fingers. We are back to sharing the ball, playing defense and listening to the coaches.”
Cincinnati has also turned their season around, winning three of their last four games after going on a three-game losing streak.
On Wednesday night the Bearcats defeated Providence 81-66, behind 22 points from sophomore Sean Kilpatrick.
The game between the Hall and Cincinnati will also have large implications on the Big East standings. The Pirates hold the eight spot in the conference with a record of 7-7 while the Bearcats are in the seventh spot with an 8-5 record.
“We just got to keep bringing the energy, keep bringing the passion, keep bringing the attitude,” freshman Aaron Cosby said.
Both teams are also considered bubble teams for the NCAA Tournament. According to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s bracketology, Seton Hall is a 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament, while Cincinnati is one of his last four teams in, also as a 12 seed, but playing in one of the four first round play-in games.
According to the RPI rankings used by the NCAA Tournament selection committee, the Pirates have an RPI of 31 and strength of schedule ranked No. 23 nationally, while the Bearcats have an RPI of 92 and the 151 ranked schedule.
“You look where our RPI is, our strength of schedule, the amount of road games we’ve played, the teams we’ve beaten, but we still have a lot of work to do to get that,” head coach Kevin Willard said. “But we’ve always had that big picture on the wall. We have our schedule up and even when we had lost six in a row, we were actually very positive about what we had to do to still make it.”
This will be the second straight season in which the Hall will be traveling to play at Cincinnati’s Fifth Third Arena.
“We first played at Syracuse, we have played at Villanova,” Mobley said. “I’m sure it’s not a crowd we haven’t heard this year.”
Last season, the Pirates lost to the Bearcats 70-53 in a New Year’s Eve matchup. In the loss the Hall struggled shooting the ball, going 15-45 from the field. This year’s senior leaders, Herb Pope and Jordan Theodore, struggled in the game with Pope scoring 10 points on 1-7 shooting while Theodore added seven points on 2-10 shooting.
The Bearcats were led by Kilpatrick’s 14 points, while senior Yancy Gates scored nine points and pulled down six rebounds.
This season Kilpatrick leads Cincinnati, averaging 15.4 points per game, with Gates averaging a near double-double with 12.6 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, while missing six games this season due to a suspension for his role in an on-court fight against Xavier.
The all-time series between these two teams is tied at six apiece, but since the Bearcats joined the Big East in 2005 the Hall holds a 4-2 advantage with a 1-2 record in Cincinnati.
Adding to this year’s game will be the bragging rights on the line for Mobley against his next-door neighbor, Cincinnati junior Cashmere Wright. The two are unlikely to matchup against each other on the court, but Mobley still feels the team accomplishment triumphs the personal matchup.
“In the end I want to get the team victory,” Mobley said. “But another reason is I want to be able to knock on his door and be like Pirate Nation.”
The game is scheduled to tip-off at 4 p.m. on Saturday. Following Cincinnati, the Pirates return home to face the No. 10 Georgetown Hoyas on Tuesday night.
Stephen Valenti can be reached at email@example.com