1. Myles Powell is the Pirates most important player. The junior guard measures in at 6’2″ and 195 pounds and is the only full-time starter that returns for the Pirates from last season. Powell was the Big East Most Improved Player last season, as he averaged 15.5 points per game in a breakout sophomore year. He’s continued that improvement into this year, scoring 22.4 points per game on the season, to go along with, 3.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.8 steals per contest. As the 19th highest scorer in the entire country, Powell has already had games of scoring 40, 30, 24, and 23 through just 8 games this season. The Trenton, New Jersey native is shooting over 35% from three and nearly 89% from the free throw stripe on the year. If Kentucky wants to avoid letting Seton Hall hang around and trying for a potential upset, the defensive effort of Ashton Hagans on Myles Powell will be the match up to watch.
2. Outside of the debacle that was the Duke game to start the season, Kentucky has not yet played a team that has the size that Seton Hall has. The front-court starters for Head Coach Kevin Willard is similar in size to Kentucky’s, and include 6’10” sophomore Sandro Mamukelashvili, 6’8″ senior Michael Nzei, and 6’6″ sophomore Myles Cale. The difference between most of the teams Kentucky has already played and Seton Hall, is that the Pirates have size coming off the bench as well. Redshirt sophomore and Syracuse transfer, Taurean Thompson is the sixth man and is 6’11” and 215 pounds, junior Romaro Gill is a whopping 7’2″, and freshman Jared Rhoden stands at 6’6″. Kentucky still obviously has the talent, as well as overall size and athleticism advantage, but the Pirates won’t be towered over like some other early season opponents.
3. The Pirates are sitting at an overall record of 5-3 on the season, with a blowout loss at Nebraska, a two-point loss to St. Louis, and most recently, a five-point loss against the dirty birds of Louisville. On the positive side for Seton Hall, they did pick up a win over Miami, which will look good on the end of the year resumé, and they did keep in close with Louisville, who looks to be better than anyone expected so far this season. This Seton Hall team knows that today’s game against a top-10 ranked and blue blood program is a monster chance for both a resumé and a confidence booster in the first half of the season. Outside of today, the Pirates do take on top-25 ranked Maryland later this month, but chances at wins over ranked teams are dwindling.
4. Seton Hall is hoping to continue their very successful string of multiple seasons this year. Coach Willard’s squad has appeared in three straight NCAA Tournaments, for the first time since the early 90s. Last season, they picked up their first tournament win since 2004. If the Pirates achieve a fourth consecutive tourney birth this season, it will be tied for their longest streak in school history. This span of time under Coach Willard has brought Seton Hall success essentially for the first time in nearly 30 years. The Pirates faithful have enjoyed three straight 20-win seasons for the first time since 1991-93 and three straight years of double-digit Big East wins for the first time ever. (Just between you, me, and the fencepost, this success is a big part of the reason Kentucky didn’t play the Hall last season in New York, but played Monmouth instead. The coaching staff didn’t want their extremely young team to take the risk of losing an early season game to a non-power 5 school.)
5. Kentucky and Seton Hall are meeting for just the third time ever this afternoon. The first match up was taken by the Cats in 1981, as all five Kentucky starters scored in double figures in a blow out, 98-74 victory in Rupp Arena. The second game came 7 years later, in the fall of 1988. This time, the game was a part of the Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage, and the Pirates got the best of the Cats. Kentucky had two players, Chris Mills and Leron Ellis, shoot 35 of their 50 total field goal attempts, and ended up losing 63-60. This was the Cats’ only loss ever in nine games spanning three appearances in the Great Alaska Shootout.
Go Cats. Beat Pirates.