Villanova-Seton Hall Preview

NEWARK, N.J. -- Villanova is inching its way to becoming the first team in Big East history to win four straight regular-season titles.

With a win over Seton Hall (16-9, 6-7 Big East) on Saturday at the Prudential Center, the No. 2 Wildcats (25-2, 12-2 Big East) can distance themselves over No. 25 Butler (9-5), which is second. Each team has four regular-season games left, including a head-to-head contest Feb. 22.

Seton Hall is the only Big East team that defeated Villanova in each of the first three seasons since the conference was reconfigured in 2013-14. The Pirates knocked off Villanova in the finals of the conference tournament last season to get an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, but dropped a 76-46 decision -- their worst loss of the season -- at the Pavilion in January.

The defending national champion Wildcats clawed their way through the Big East. Coach Jay Wright's team defeated conference opponents by an average of 11 points while holding them to a league-low 64.3 points.

Villanova leads the Big East in free throw percentage (80.5), field goal percentage defense (41.3) and 3-point field goal defense percentage (30.5).

Josh Hart, a National Player of the Year candidate and the Big East Preseason Player of the Year, leads the conference in scoring at 18.7 points.

"Everyone thinks if you're a player of the year candidate, you've got to go out there and score 20 or 25," Hart told Philly.com. "I'm sorry to break it to some people, it's not the award for who scores the most. It's about going out there and being a Villanova basketball player, getting everyone involved."

The Pirates bid for a spot in the NCAA Tournament was kept alive with an 87-81 victory over No. 20 Creighton on Wednesday. Junior guard Khadeen Carrington erupted for a career-high 41 points, including all of Seton Hall's 10 points in the final 41 seconds.

It was the most points scored in a Big East conference game this season and tied for eighth-most on Seton Hall's all-time scoring list.

"These are the games I live for," Carrington said. "We're on the bubble and we need these wins."

The Wildcats will be at a disadvantage if big man Darryl Reynolds is unable to go or not at full strength because of the rib injury that has kept him out of the past two games. Reynolds is Villanova's best interior defender and best suited to slow down Seton Hall's Angel Delgado, who leads the nation in rebounding (13.2) and is second in double-doubles with 20.

Villanova utilized a six-man rotation in Reynolds' absence with four players averaging at least 30 minutes. Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard uses seven player, four of who average in double digit scoring.

Desi Rodriguez (16.5 points), Carrington (16.2) and Delgado (15.6) rank in the top nine in scoring in Big East play.

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