No. 15 Seton Hall takes thin roster to rusty Butler

NCAA Men's Basketball

No. 15 Seton Hall and Butler both are dealing with COVID issues as the teams prepare to face each other Tuesday night Indianapolis.

However, the problems are different ones.

For Seton Hall, it is sheer numbers.

After having their Dec. 18 game against Iona canceled, the Pirates (9-3, 0-2 Big East) had only eight available players against both No. 21 Providence and No. 22 Villanova last week and, not surprisingly, lost both games. Seton Hall put up a good effort in both, losing 70-65 and 73-67.

The effects aren’t felt merely on game day.

“We’re not practicing right now,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said after Saturday’s loss to Villanova. “I have eight guys. We dummy offense, we lift, we watch film and we just walk through it the best we can. You can’t play these guys this many minutes and expect them to practice.”

Seton Hall showed its hustle on defense by having 17 steals over the two games.

“I think that’s just the type of kids these guys are,” Willard said. “They play extremely hard. Under difficult circumstances, I think they’re showing their true colors.”

Seton Hall 3-point specialist Jamir Harris went 4-for-6 from beyond the arc against Villanova, as the transfer from American University righted himself from a 1-for-10 slump in the previous three games.

Willard indicated after the loss to Villanova that neither Ike Obiagu nor Tyrese Samuel would be back for the Butler game because of COVID protocol. However, that could change if the Big East follows the lead of other conferences that have changed policy recently with the updated CDC recommendations (asymptomatic positives quarantining for just five days, rather than 10).

Still, those players would have to regain their game fitness.

Butler’s problem, meantime, is mere rust.

By the time this one is scheduled to tip off, the Bulldogs (8-4, 1-0) will have played only one game in 17 days. They have had games at St. John’s (on Dec. 23) and Connecticut (on Jan. 1) postponed because of COVID issues in their opponents’ programs.

“It was good to play a game,” Butler coach LaVall Jordan said after a 63-59 victory over visiting DePaul on Dec. 29, their only game since Dec. 18. “Our guys were excited to get back out there and compete, especially at home. We haven’t played here in a while.”

Butler nearly squandered a 12-point second-half lead but held on for its fourth victory in five games. The Bulldogs’ balanced attack is led by Chuck Harris (11.7 points) and the key to their offense is point guard Aaron Thompson, who averages five assists a game.

–Field Level Media

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