Men’s hoops battles Butler for tournament seeding
Locked into eighth place in the conference, the men’s basketball team will be playing a Butler team that is playing to avoid finishing in last place in their first Big East season.
Butler must defeat DePaul Thursday and Seton Hall on Saturday in order to wrestle ninth-place from the Blue Demons.
The Bulldogs defeated Seton Hall 64-57 on January 29.
“I think we got a lot of guys who are maybe looking for individual accolades, maybe,” Eugene Teague told The Star Ledger after the loss, echoing head coach Kevin Willard’s sentiment that selfish play was killing his team.
“I really don’t know, but I don’t feel like we’re all on the same page as a team.”
Since then, the Pirates have dropped six of nine and have fallen to 15-15 on the year and 6-11 in conference play.
But on Monday, Seton Hall defeated a Xavier team that was fresh off of beating No. 11 Creighton.
The 71-62 victory came on a sentimental senior night and it may be exactly what the team needs as it prepares for the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden.
The Pirates are led by senior wing Fuquan Edwin, who is averaging 16.6 points per game.
After losing head coach Brad Stevens to the NBA’s Boston Celtics, Butler has struggled mightily.
Sophomore guard Kellen Dun- ham is the team’s top offensive weapon, averaging nearly 17 points a night in 28 games this season.
While their offensive attack (which ranks 241st in the nation) is painfully dry, one of the biggest deficiencies in Butler’s roster is a severe lack of height.
The Bulldogs have just three players over 6-feet-8-inches: freshman Nolan Berry (1.8 points per game), junior Kameron Woods (7.9 points per game) and senior Erik Fromm (5.6 points per game).
Seton Hall will need to capitalize on the height advantage as the Pirates are third in the Big East in defensive rebounding.
Losing to Butler again would likely destroy all of the momentum built up on senior night.
But beating them behind strong performances from Fuquan Edwin and Sterling Gibbs could give SHU a big-time confidence boost heading into the conference tournament.
Willard said that he believes his Pirates can make a run in the Big East Tournament because they have played every team tough.
If the tournament began today, Seton Hall would take on DePaul, a team that they lost to, 65-60, on February 25.
Tommy Duffy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.