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Preview: Seton Hall vs. Marquette

Seton Hall (15-6, 5-6) hosts #25 Marquette (16-6, 6-5) Tuesday night at The Prudential Center with tip-off set for 7:30 PM. Both programs have been struggling of late with the Pirates losing 3 straight; 2 in a row on the wrong end for the Golden Eagles.

Tuesday night's game completes the season series between the two teams. Marquette overcame a 22-9 deficit to defeat The Hall 61-56 on January 8th in Wisconsin, a game in which neither team broke 37% shooting. The Eagles assisted on 17 of their 20 FG that night, whereas SHU just 6 of 21. Ultimately making the extra pass proved to be the difference as 6'9" Dan Fitzgerald nailed the decisive three-pointer with just 11 seconds left and MU up by only 2 points. The Pirate defense had collapsed into the paint, leaving Fitzgerald alone in the corner to receive the pass.

While the teams engaged in a rugged defensive effort, Fitzgerald shot 4/9 from the arc for all 12 of his points. Also noteworthy is that Fitzgerald has not scored in double-digits since, and only 3 times in 17 games this entire season. His game against The Hall is his highest point total of the season. 6'3" Jr. G Jerel McNeal also had a solid game for the Eagles, scoring 14 points with 5 assists, 7 rebounds, and 2 steals. Marquette shot 9/28 from the arc compared to Seton Hall's anemic 3/18.

These teams are both guard-oriented teams whose statistics in conference play are remarkably similar across the board, which played out in the first game. Marquette is built on a talented trio of guards in McNeal, Dominic James, and Wesley Matthews along with the versatility of 6'6" F Lazar Hayward. Each of the four averages between 11 and 14 PPG in Big East play, although McNeal is shooting just .361 from the floor compared to .446 for Hayward, .429 for Matthews, and .410 for James. Hayward is shooting a blistering .563 (18/32) from the arc in conference games while Matthews is at .440 (11/25). Both James and McNeal are below .320 from the arc.

For Seton Hall, it's Eugene Harvey, Jamar Nutter, and Larry Davis stepping in with Paul Gause out for the season alongside Brian Laing.

Barring another lopsided shooting night from the arc (27-9 for MU in the last meeting), it seems logical to suggest someone else will step up. Who will be Dan Fitzgerald in this game? Will it be Fitzgerald himself again? John Garcia or Mike Davis?

Or how about Jeremy Hazell?

Hazell's role to the Pirates cannot be overstated. In the 14 games that Hazell has scored at least 10 points, Seton Hall is 10-4, 4-2, compared to 5-5, 1-4 when he does not. That differential is even more striking when analyzing Hazell's splits at The Rock and on the road:

Home (5): 36/74 (.486), 22/52 (.423), 23 PPG

Away (6): 12/49 (.245), 9/37 (.243), 6 PPG

Both teams are desperate. The Pirates - with 7 of their 9 active players freshmen or sophomores - have been the epitome of inconsistency in conference play: a 0-3 start followed by a 5-game winning streak, and now a 3-game losing streak.

The veteran Marquette team - boasting 5 key players who are all Juniors and Seniors and have played on two NCAA Tournament teams - have been just as inconsistent. They are just 3-4 over their past 7 Big East games with 2 two-game losing streaks sandwiching a 3-game winning streak. Marquette is also just 1-4 on the road in Big East play (Cincinnati).

Slight edge towards Seton Hall because the game is at home. The Pirates have also played better since the last meeting against better competition.

Prediction: Seton Hall 69, Marquette 65