Villanova-Seton Hall Preview

Inconsistent outside shooting hasn't stopped Villanova from maintaining its Big East dominance and continuing to rise in the national polls.

The No. 4 Wildcats will likely have to claw out another victory Wednesday night at Seton Hall in a pairing of two of the conference's top defensive teams.

Despite ranking ninth in the 10-team Big East in 3-point shooting at 31.2 percent, Villanova (16-2, 6-0 Big East) keeps on winning by stifling opposing offenses and excelling at the foul line. The Wildcats overcame a 3 of 18 performance from beyond the arc and one field goal over the final 8 1/2 minutes in Saturday's 55-50 victory at Georgetown, their eighth consecutive win and 21st straight against Big East foes including last year's conference tournament.

“That's how you have to win on the road,” coach Jay Wright said. “It's just not going to be pretty in this league.”

The Wildcats – the only ones in the Big East without at least two defeats – haven't lost a league game in over a calendar year, last falling at Georgetown on Jan. 19, 2015. They've done it behind a defense limiting foes to 60.0 points per game and 37.7 percent shooting, both best in the Big East, and hitting a league-high 75.9 percent of their free throws. Ryan Arcidiacono sealed Saturday's win by going 6 of 6 from the line in the final 29 seconds.

“We think this league's the best league in America and if you're winning in this league, you're really good,” Wright said. “Talking with the coaches we say that this league is a beast, so anything we do in this league, we take great pride in.”

Seton Hall (13-4, 3-2) has put itself in the NCAA Tournament conversation by nearly equaling the Wildcats on the defensive end. The Pirates rank second in the league in scoring defense (65.9), third in opposing field goal percentage (40.0) and have held teams to a conference-low 31.2 percent on 3-pointers.

They've also struggled from long range, having shot 30.1 percent on 3s in Big East play and 27.0 percent over a four-game stretch.

The Pirates haven't matched Villanova's success on free throws, having hit just 65.3 percent to rank ninth in the conference. That wasn't an issue Saturday at then-No. 12 Providence, where Seton Hall went 20 of 24 from the stripe en route to an 81-72 win.

Khadeen Carrington made all 12 of his free throws, finishing with a career-high 22 points, and the Pirates held the Friars to 30.4 percent shooting while owning a 50-36 rebounding advantage.

“I thought if we could rebound, we could run,” coach Kevin Willard said. “At times I thought we got a lot of easy buckets and that took some pressure off of us in the half-court.''

Seton Hall is 1-2 thus far on a rigorous five-game sequence in which it'll face four ranked teams, with a visit to No. 5 Xavier set for Saturday. The stretch began with a 72-63 loss at Villanova on Jan. 6 in which, unsurprisingly, neither team shot above 36.2 percent.

The Wildcats were 4 of 22 from 3 but received season highs of 20 points and 18 rebounds from Daniel Ochefu. The senior center posted a career-high 24 rebounds with 19 points in last year's visit to Prudential Center, another defensive slugfest won by the Pirates 66-61 in overtime.

Arcidiacono, 4 of 23 from the 3-point line in five games since going 7 of 14 in a 27-point effort against Xavier on Dec. 21, is 3 of 21 from beyond the arc while averaging 7.2 points in his last five meetings with Seton Hall.