Villanova-Seton Hall Preview

To notch the best start in school history, Villanova will really need to earn it.

An impressive achievement is within the sixth-ranked Wildcats’ grasp Saturday, though they’re on the road facing a Seton Hall team which can lay claim to being second-best in the Big East after beating the only other top-15 squad in the conference.

Wednesday’s 67-55 victory over Butler to begin Big East play gave Villanova a 13-0 record for the first time since 1937-38. No team in the program’s history has ever opened with 14 consecutive victories.

"Anything we do to match bests in this program means the world to me," coach Jay Wright said.

This is the second straight meeting between these schools in which the Pirates (11-2, 1-0) could play spoilers. They stunned then-No. 3 Villanova 64-63 on Sterling Gibbs’ jumper at the buzzer in the Big East tournament quarterfinals, a big reason why the Wildcats were denied a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

"It’s a tough game, we’ve lost there before, but the buzzer beater won’t specifically be on any of our guys’ minds," guard Ryan Arcidiacono said.

Villanova also fell to Seton Hall on the road on a late 3-pointer Feb. 25, 2013, though it easily won there last season 83-67.

The Pirates are 7-0 at home after knocking off 15th-ranked St. John’s 78-67 on Wednesday, matching the Red Storm for the second-best overall record in the Big East.

"It’s not like we won the national championship," Gibbs said. "I think we proved ourselves a little bit, beating the No. 15 team in the country. But we have to build off this. It’s one game."

The junior had one of his best games with 25 points, eight assists and no turnovers. Gibbs went 5 of 7 from beyond the arc and is leading the conference in 3-point shooting at 53.3 percent.

"He’s playing at a level where I envisioned him," coach Kevin Willard said. "He’s worked as hard as anyone I’ve ever coached to get to this point. He’s now receiving what he worked for."

Arcidiacono also has stepped up, averaging 15.5 points in the past two games – nearly double his season average.

Senior JayVaughn Pinkston has averaged 15.5 in the last four games for Villanova, one of six remaining unbeaten teams in Division I.

"We just can’t get complacent," Pinkston said. "We have to keep getting better each and every day and go into practice with an open mindset and feeding off each other."

The Wildcats have only played one true road game, but that was near their Philadelphia campus – an 84-70 win over La Salle on Dec. 3. They did, however, win twice in Brooklyn, beating VCU and Michigan teams which were ranked, and defeated Illinois at Madison Square Garden.

"These guys have played in so many different venues and high level games that (traveling) is something you don’t have to worry about," Wright said.

The Pirates aren’t lacking in confidence after beating a St. John’s team which had won seven straight and was holding opponents to 58.2 points per game. Seton Hall was about 20 better than that even without preseason Big East rookie of the year Isaiah Whitehead (foot), who will miss a third straight game Friday.

"Now we have to back this up," Willard said. "We have to try to do it all again against Villanova."

The Pirates rank among the nation’s top 10 in 3-point defense at 26.5 percent, holding its last five opponents to 15 for 80.

The Wildcats’ five closest results have all come when they’ve failed to shoot better than 30.0 percent from 3-point range.