The undefeated and ranked No. 22 Texas Tech Red Raiders will face the Seton Hall Pirates, ranked No. 23 in the latest USA Today Coaches Poll, Thursday night at Madison Square Garden (on my bucket list of places to visit). The 5-1 Pirates have wins against Power 5 teams Indiana and Vanderbilt with their only loss of the season coming against Rhode Island by a score of 75-74. They are coached by Kevin Willard and were ranked to start the season. Willard’s pirates have a 9-man rotation that all play over 12 minutes a game. This team, like Texas Tech, is led by seniors and they have a core of really good players that can play with anyone in the country.
Let’s start with their big man Angel Delgado. Delgado is 6-10 and is a double-double machine. He is a skilled rebounder and finisher in the paint as he is averaging 14 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. He also has been developing a mid-range jumper and is effective with it from about 15 feet. He reminds me of Al Jefferson with the way he plays offense and rebounds. His passing ability from the post especially reminds me of Jefferson. Tommy Hamilton IV will have his hands full Thursday. Below are Delgado’s highlights against Indiana.
Khadeem Carrington has had an off year so far compared to last year. He is still averaging 10.2 points along with 4 assists per game. He is one of their best outside shooters and can put down 25 on you without much effort. He’s had a frustrating season so far and is looking too break out of his rut sometime soon, so watch out for this guy. Niem Stevenson will most likely get the first chance to guard him, and with Stevenson’s length and wingspan, he’ll have the best chance to slow Carrington down.
Their best scorer this season has been Desi Rodriguez. In their last game against Vanderbilt, Rodriquez had 27 points and got his buckets in many ways. He is a 33% 3-point shooter, he also shoots a 51% from the field and is averaging 17.8 points per game. He is a great paint scorer and is their best drive and finish guy. At 6’6 and 220 lbs., Rodriguez has the size and length to take his man off the dribble and score at the rim. Justin Gray will most likely start the game on him, but look for Zach Smith to double him if he drives into the lane.
Myles Powell is their fourth-best option on offense but is a three-point threat as he shoots 40% from the line and is the team’s third-leading scorer at 14 points per game. The Pirates have 4 main contributors off the bench led by Senior forward Ismael Sanogo who is averaging 5.2 rebounds off the bench. Seton Hall, like Texas Tech, have good freshmen coming off the bench led by guard Myles Cale. Cale is only averaging 6 points, but he shoots a high 45% from behind the arc as he is a sharpshooter from deep. The Pirates also have an intriguing prospect from Georgia (country not state) in Sandro Mamukelashvili. The 6-10 freshman is only averaging 14 minutes per game off the bench and has almost no stats that stick out if you’re looking at the box score but from the film, you can see that this guy is a player. Mamukelashvili is probably the best backup center that the Red Raiders have faced so look for Norense Odiase to have a good challenge down low when they both come off the bench.
Seton Hall offense
Offensively, the Pirates use a lot of high ball screens and put up a lot of threes and try to pound the ball into the paint. Khadeem Carrington runs the offense for the first team and when he is not on the floor, look for Desi Rodriguez and their backup point guard Myles Cale to run the offense. The Pirates also have a good secondary break and make it a priority to get the ball in the hands of either Carrington, Delgado, or Powell to make a shot early in the shot clock. If none of those options are there, the other post, usually Michael Nzei, floats near the block and waits for a swing pass or to grab offensive rebounds.
Desi Rodriguez is their jack-of-all-trades player and gets open any way he can with ball screens and backdoor cuts. He is also a highly efficient player and shoots at a high percentage. He is their best isolation player as well and will look to get him the isolation play when they need baskets in clutch situations. Justin Gray will get the first nod to try and guard him. Whenever their offense gets stagnant, they really pound the ball inside to Delgado, a man that can score inside. Tommy Hamilton and Zach Smith will get most of the defensive reps against him. Also look for Myles Powell to be a huge threat from the three-point line.
Seton Hall defense
Defensively, the Pirates play a free man meaning that they switch on most screens. They are very good at switching screens and covering each other’s man. They also double team off the screen if it is in the corner. That hurt the Pirates more than it helped them. Look for an experienced guard like Keenan Evans to be able to break that trap and I can also see a guard like Davide Moretti off the bench be able to break that trap and find the open man as Moretti had 5 assists and 0 turnovers in the game against Wofford last week. The only player that doesn’t switch on screens is their big man Angel Delgado. Delgado tends to roam the paint even when his man is on the three-point man to cover backdoor cuts and post-ups. With Tommy Hamilton and Zach Smith’s ability to shoot the three, look for Delgado to have to come out on shooters, making it easier for the Red Raiders to get Niem Stevenson, Keenan Evans, and Justin Gray the ball on the inside.
Seton Hall also has a 3⁄4 court press that they put on that includes trapping near half court. In this press, they especially trap on the sidelines and on the half court line creating more boundaries for ball handlers to be aware of. This is not to get loads of turnovers and subsequently foul more like West Virginia did in years past, but to slow the progression of the other team to allow their big men to get set up down low.
The Seton Hall Pirates have gotten off to slow starts against inferior opponents such as Indiana as they only lead by one at halftime, and Farleigh Dickinson, a game in which the game was close through much of the first half. Look for the Red Raiders to take advantage of a potentially slow start by pushing the ball early and capitalizing on the ability to space the floor. Seton Hall is an extremely talented team that will possibly win some games in March and make the NCAA tournament just like the Red Raiders are hoping to. I expect the Red Raiders to have a great start offensively and attempt to shut the high-octane offense of Seton Hall down. Seton Hall will make a comeback, but I think the Red Raiders’ ability to have all 5 positions spread the floor will be the doom of the Pirates. Look for Keenan Evans to restart his double-digit scoring streak and look for Zach Smith to also shine against a big-time opponent in Seton Hall.
Red Raiders 75 Seton Hall 68.