UNGER: Seton Hall poses an intriguing litmus test for MUBB


Photo by Brian Georgeson

Marquette fell on the road last year to Seton Hall. The Golden Eagles are currently riding a four game losing streak.

While Marquette men’s basketball appears to have locked a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013, the Golden Eagles still have at least one more contest to boost their tournament resume before Selection Sunday rolls around. Marquette is set to take on Seton Hall Thursday afternoon in New York City in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Tournament. While the contest may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, there are a few interesting aspects of this game to take note of.

Due to an interesting schedule quirk, the Golden Eagles completed both of their games against the Pirates in a 10-day span at the start of conference play and Seton Hall gave the blue and gold all they could handle. Each team claimed three-point victories on their respective home courts in tight contests that were close throughout. Interestingly enough, both teams currently sit around the same average seeding position in bracketologists’ mock field of 68.

The Golden Eagles are currently slated to earn anywhere between an 8 to 11 seeding position with an average of 9.82 according to Bracket Matrix, while the Pirates have an average of 10.06 on the data compilation website. While the close proximity in average seeding brings an intriguing feature to the upcoming contest, Seton Hall’s style of play is another interesting facet to keep an eye on.

Nine of Marquette’s 11 losses on the season have come against teams that play a slow half-court game. With the exception of St. John’s and Georgetown, every single one of the Golden Eagles’ defeats have occurred versus teams that have adjusted tempo ranks of 268 or lower according to KenPom. Additionally, these teams have average possession lengths of 17.4 seconds or longer.

When Marquette fell to Seton Hall Dec. 28, the Pirates, who rank 216th in adjusted tempo and 244th in average possession length, took the Golden Eagles out of their preferred style of play. Seton Hall’s length and big bodies killed Marquette inside the paint area. As a result, head coach Steve Wojciechowski’s team totaled its fourth worst scoring output of the season.

However, the Golden Eagles are obviously a much different team compared to three months earlier. That is why Thursday’s matchup with the Pirates is an intriguing test for Marquette as the blue and gold approach the big dance. Is the offense lethal enough to overcome a slow pace and defensive deficiencies? This game will likely say a lot about Marquette’s ceiling going forward.