In a ranked-versus-ranked battle Wednesday night, No. 15 Seton Hall finally will embark upon its Big East schedule on the road at No. 21 Providence.
The Pirates (9-1, 0-0 Big East) were one of many Division I teams to have COVID-19 alter their plans this month. While the program dealt with the spread of the virus, a nonconference game against Iona was called off and Big East matchups against St. John’s and DePaul were postponed.
Seton Hall was ready to play at DePaul last Thursday, but the Blue Demons had their own COVID-19 issues. The Big East has since changed its policy from handing out automatic forfeits to teams too undermanned to play to attempting to reschedule postponed games.
Now the Pirates will take the court for the first time since defeating Rutgers 77-63 on Dec. 12.
Providence (11-1, 1-0) will be somewhat fresher, though Georgetown had to postpone its meeting with Providence last week due to COVID-19. The Friars previously opened their Big East slate Dec. 18 with a 57-53 road win over then-No. 20 UConn.
A.J. Reeves led Providence in that one with 16 points thanks to four 3-pointers, while the Friars held the Huskies to 31.1 percent shooting overall.
“A Big East game is a war every night, and that’s the quality of opponents that we’re going to play night in and night out,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our men. I thought we hung in there through some adversity, when you’re on the road in a building that can get that loud.”
Now the Friars will return home, where they are 8-0 this season.
Leading scorer Nate Watson scores 14.8 points per game along with averaging 5.6 rebounds and 1.0 block. One of the best games of the fifth-year senior’s career came against the Pirates in 2020, when he had 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting plus 11 boards.
Providence will meet a Seton Hall team led by Jared Rhoden, tied for the Big East’s third-leading scorer at 17.4 ppg.
Before their COVID pause, the Pirates were also benefiting from veteran Bryce Aiken, a former Harvard transfer who was limited last season by knee and ankle injuries. Aiken typically comes off the bench to bolster Seton Hall’s backcourt, and he led all scorers in the Rutgers game with 22.
“A healthy Bryce, it’s magnificent for us,” Rhoden said that night. “Just to see him out there moving as well as he is, and such a passionate leader and someone who just puts everybody together and allows us all to be ourselves — with him still flourishing — is amazing.”
As of Monday, it’s unclear how many players Seton Hall will have available following its COVID break. Also, starter Ike Obiagu injured his right ankle earlier this month in the Pirates’ win over Texas and sat out the Rutgers game, but he could return against Providence.
Seton Hall and Providence split their season series in 2020-21, with each team winning on the road, but the Pirates have claimed eight of their last 12 games.
–Field Level Media