How To Watch & Listen
Seton Hall (9-1) At Rutgers (9-3)
Where: The RAC (capacity 8,000)
Tip-off: Saturday, December 15th at 12:00 p.m. ET
TV: BTN - Kevin Kugler and Jon Crispin
Radio: WCTC 1450 AM & WOR 710 AM, Sirius/XM 83 - Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan; WRSU 88.7 FM
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #101; Seton Hall #17
(Note: Rutgers rose five spots since the 12 point win over Fordham)
KenPom Prediction: Seton Hall 73 Rutgers 66; Rutgers 25% chance to win
Series History: Seton Hall leads 39-29 all-time, including the past four meetings. The series began in 1916.
About Seton Hall
The #15th ranked Pirates enter this game on a roll, winners of their last five and with a 9-1 record. They own five top 100 wins this season over Louisville, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt, VCU, and Indiana. In their lone loss, a 1 point defeat to Rhode Island, they shot 48% from the field and held a +10 rebounding edge. This is the best Seton Hall team in many years and although this rivalry means so much to me and others, if I was asked to say something derogatory about them, to quote the iconic Rocky Balboa, “Yeah, they’re great!”
Statistically, the Hall is extremely balanced in every area on the court. Per KenPom, they are 15th in Division I in adjusted offensive efficiency and 22nd in adjusted defensive efficiency. For those that view the scouting report profile for teams on KenPom, its significant that every statistical category on both sides of the ball is highlighted in green, which indicates they are ranked on the plus side within Division I. Every category but one that is, as the only weakness for the Hall is they shoot poorly from the free throw line, as they’re making only 66.2% from the line, which is 281st out of 351 Division I teams.
Seton Hall can score in bunches and average 81.9 points per game, while only allowing 67.2 points of its opponents per contest. Their starting five of Angel Delgado, Ish Sanogo, Desi Rodriguez, Myles Powell, and Khadeen Carrington is a well balanced and very strong group. Michael Nzei is also a key player off the bench, Aside from struggling at the free throw line, this team can shoot, as they average 49.4% from the field and 36.2% from three-point range.
Here are stats for key players on Seton Hall:
6’6” senior wing Desi Rodriguez - 19.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.0 steal
6’2” sophomore guard Myles Powell - 14.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.1 steals
6’10” senior center Angel Delgado - 13.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists
6’4” senior guard Khadeen Carrington - 11.9 points, 4.2 assists, 2.7 rebounds
6’8” junior forward Michael Nzei - 5.9 points, 3.8 rebounds
6’8” senior forward Ish Sanogo - 3.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.4 steals
Know Your Three-Point Shooters:
Myles Powell - 27 of 67 for 40.3%
Myles Cale - 6 of 15 for 40%
Desi Rodriguez - 18 of 47 for 38.3%
Khadeen Carrington - 7 of 31 for 22.6% (career 33.8%)
Rutgers Notes: The Scarlet Knights lead the country in rebounding (45.7) and offensive rebounding (15.9) per game. They are also fourth in both in scoring defense (57.8 ppg) and field goal percentage defense (35.9%). After Corey Sanders achieved the 1,000 point milestone on Tuesday, Mike Williams is 11 points from becoming the 43rd player in Rutgers history to hit that scoring mark.
Notable Pregame Quotes From Rutgers
On defending Seton Hall, particularly Angel Delgado in the paint:
“I mean, I’m worried about all their guys. (Desi) Rodriguez averages almost 20 (points), (Myles) Powell 14. I’ll tell the same advice I tell my guys whenever we play a great post player - it’s team defense. It’s not just one guy. He’s terrific around the basket. Real estate is very important, you can get real estate. He’s smart. He’s improved and he’s one of those guys you always got to keep a body on him and you need to bring some help, some different angles. Shaq and Mamadou and we have a few guys up front … we’re just going to have to do a good job.”
Steve Pikiell on the importance of rebounding in this matchup:
“It’s a real important stat. They’re a terrific rebounding team, especially with (Delgado) leading the nation in double-doubles. He’s been one of those guys every night who you can pencil him in. But I also think fouls are really important. We fouled a lot last year in our game and the more you foul, the more they shoot free throws and the more our guys that we want to play the most minutes are on the bench. I think rebounding and free throws are two huge categories.”
Steve Pikiell on the rivalry with Seton Hall:
“It’s exciting. I know our students are excited, our players are and it’s really good when Seton Hall is good, it’s good when we’re good so I think it’s a good thing and a good, healthy rivalry and I’m excited about it.”
“I think anytime you play great teams in great environments, it helps recruiting. That’s the way it is. It’s going to be a great environment, it was a great environment last year too. Seton Hall being ranked now, probably their best team in a while, so it makes it that much more important. I think any time you can have two quality programs down the road from each other, it’s a great thing and the rivalry continues hopefully to have great games that warrant a great rivalry.”
Mike Williams on the rivalry:
“It’s for New Jersey. It’s a rivalry game. This game goes back all the way back to 1916. It’s like tradition. They’ve won the last few so it’s great competition. Trying to tell the young guys to stay poised, because this game is bigger than the other games this season.”
Corey Sanders on the sellout crowd for this game:
“Very eager to play this game because of the fans. They get to come out and watch a fun game and having the fans behind us is just going to make us play harder. Hopefully I don’t get my eardrums busted this time, but I’m just really looking forward to this game.”
Corey Sanders on what the importance of beating a ranked team would mean:
“It would be a great win for us, a big win for us because we let two slip away earlier. If we can get this win, it just shows everybody that we’re that team to watch out for, which we all believe that we are. We’re ready to play. We’re going to get into practice today and get after it.”
Keys To Victory
Rutgers has zero chance to win this game without strong performances from Corey Sanders, Geo Baker, and Mike Williams. The backcourt of Seton Hall with Carrington and Powell is very dangerous and they can score in bunches. In order to keep up, these three need to shoot well and get their teammates high percentage shots near the rim. Baker has shown tremendous poise running the point this season, but this will be his biggest test to date. Sanders and Williams have been through these wars, with last season’s game slipping away in the second half. The pace of this game should be intense and its key for these three players to keep Rutgers under control and focused.
No Easy Baskets
The Pirates are 40th in Division I in defensive turnover rate at 22.7%, so Rutgers must limit its turnovers. Rutgers cannot afford to allow the Hall many easy baskets off of turnovers, something they thrive off of. Transition defense is so important as well, as the Hall will look to run on Rutgers as much as possible. Rebounding is also a key and limiting the Pirates on the offensive glass will hard to do, but it has to be done. Angel Delgado is a beast inside and how Rutgers freshman Mamadou Doucoure holds up against him will have a major impact on this game. Staying out of foul trouble will be something to watch for as well.
Second Chance Points
Even if Rutgers can come close to its recent hot streak shooting the basketball, they still need to hold an edge in second chance points in this game if they want to win. It won’t be easy and is why the guards of Rutgers need to have strong rebounding games as well. Mike Williams could be a major factor in that regard. However, its not just grabbing offensive rebounds against a dominant Seton Hall frontcourt, but finishing shots near the rim is so important. Deshawn Freeman struggled inside against the Hall last season, scoring just 7 points and only took 4 shots in the game. He needs to make his presence felt early and often in this game.
Of course, this game could ultimately come down which team performs better at the free throw line. Rutgers shot 79% from the charity stripe in that three game stretch against Florida State, Minnesota, and Michigan State, so there isn’t any reason they can’t do so in this game.
X-Factor - Issa Thiam
In my opinion, Issa Thiam could be the key to Rutgers winning this game. The Hall have never played against him, as he sat out last season’s matchup due to being sick. Even if he had played, Issa is a much improved player this season. I asked coach Pikiell about Issa’s development and here is what he said:
“Issa’s improved a lot. I’m really excited about him. He’s gone from averaging no rebounds to doing an unbelievable job on the backboards for us. He’s become a defender I really trust. His length, he’s gotten stronger, he’s 6-foot-9 and he’s getting good looks at the rim, too. You see Issa’s getting to the rim now, he’s posting up at time and he’s shooting threes. Those are dimensions he didn’t have last year, so I’m real pleased with his development and it’s important. He’s a good shooter and if he can make shots, it helps us.”
The key matchup for me is Issa versus leading scorer for the Hall, Desi Rodriguez. I’ve always felt that Issa’s defense is underrated and his length can cause problems for Desi on the perimeter. He has great footwork and never bails out on the defensive end, always staying committed to who he is matched up against. In addition, Issa is the best threat to catch fire behind the arc on this team, even more so than Geo Baker. He is the only Rutgers player shooting above 32% from three-point range, as he has made 18 of 48 attempts for 37.5%. Once Issa figures out that he can get his shot off over virtually any defender matched up against him due to his 6’10” frame, I think his numbers will rise even more. You can see his confidence building this season and there wouldn’t be a better time than Saturday for him to break out in a big way.
Maintain Poise & Emotion
I mentioned above about the guards needing to keep this team under control, but really every player needs to maintain their emotions and remain poised in this game. It’s going to be a war and when Seton Hall makes its first run, Rutgers needs to be able to limit them and stay together. Frontcourt players like Mamadou Doucoure and Eugene Omoruyi are passionate and super athletic, but need to make sure they don’t get called for any foolish fouls made out of frustration. Deshawn Freeman and Corey Sanders both lost their cool in the loss at Minnesota, so hopefully they learned their lesson. This is why the uncommon poise of Geo Baker as a freshman and the leadership of senior captain Mike Williams is so important in this game. The environment should be wild and Rutgers has to stay focused or things could get out of hand quickly.
In The Bonus
The RAC is sold out and the atmosphere on Saturday should be fantastic. The student section, led by the Riot Squad, will bring their “A” game, no doubt. Hopefully, the home crowd is rocking right at the opening tip, as this team needs every bit of help they can get. I expect a vintage RAC crowd for this game. Rutgers hung with #2 Michigan State the entire game and with even more energy coming from the home faithful, it could be the edge the Scarlet Knights need to beat the Hall for the first time in five season. If you are attending this game, wear red, drink some tea Friday night to get your throats ready, and be ready to be loud at high noon on Saturday. And don’t be surprised to see 25% of the RAC in blue, which will make it even more important for a great home crowd. #DeckTheHall