The world of professional sports, whether it be the NFL, MLB or NBA, is going absolutely crazy right now. But even better and maybe crazier than pro sports is Big East basketball.
It is crazy that not everyone will play 20 conference games (to put that into perspective, Xavier has played just seven), and it’s good how many possible March Madness teams the conference has. It is crazy how many upsets there have been so far, but it is also good to see how many strong teams there are.
Either way, the Big East tournament nears, and for those interested in going to Madison Square Garden (10% capacity, that’s good) next month, here’s a simple summary of what might interest you.
Writers Note: According to Mike DeCourcy’s bracketology, Villanova is a projected three-seed, Creighton is a five, Xavier is an eight-seed, Seton Hall is a ten-seed, UConn is a first four out and St. John’s is a next four out. It varies by person.
Player of the Week:
David Duke – Providence
Freshman of the Week:
Adama Sanogo – UConn
St. John’s vs. Butler (Feb. 8): All good things must come to an end
St. John’s entered this game with a six-game winning streak this season, but a six-game losing streak at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Only one could be extended. Up as much as 16 in the first half, it looked as though the Red Storm were going to extend their winning streak and make a push for March Madness. The Butler Bulldogs had other plans though as they tied the game almost halfway through the second half. From there, both teams exchanged leads and ties throughout the final nine minutes of regulation on free throws and 3-pointers.
With 28 seconds left, Dylan Addae-Wusu gave the Red Storm a two-point lead that could have won them the game, but a turnover led to two points by Aaron Thompson to tie the game once again. Rasheem Dunn tried to win the game at the buzzer, but his shot was just short. In overtime, Butler scored first, followed by five unanswered from St. John’s and finished with four unanswered points from the Bulldogs. In the last 30 seconds, St. John’s tried to make an effort to tie the game with shots from Addae-Wusu, Julian Champagnie and Posh Alexander, but none of their shots landed and the Bulldogs ended the Red Storm’s surge with a 76-73 overtime win.
For St. John’s, Champagnie led the team with 19 points, which was followed by Isaih Moore’s 13 and Dunn’s 12. As for Butler, Bryce Nze finished with a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds while Thompson finished with 17 points and Bo Hodges secured 12 of his own. Both teams were cold from three-point land as Butler landed one out of every four shots while St. John’s shot 23.5% from deep. Butler also got advantages in rebounding with 40 and landed 46% of all shots. The Red Storm want to make March Madness, but this loss helps Butler more than it does St. John’s.
Villanova vs. Creighton (Feb. 13): Super Bowl LV for college hoops
After weeks of beating opponents both in close games and in blowouts, at home and on the road, the two ranked powerhouses were set to collide. The Villanova Wildcats, the defending Big East champions led by Jay Wright, taking on the newer kids in the Creighton Blue Jays, led by Greg McDermott. Compare all you want, but the result was like Super Bowl LV, a reasonable blowout.
By reasonable, I mean that this game was close until it was not and the team that lost did everything to stay in the fight. Creighton got out to a great start early, landing 65.4% of their shots in the first half, while exposing Villanova’s weak defense like Patrick Mahomes’ offensive line and shutting down their high-powered offense like the shutdown of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. In his postgame interview, Wright commented, “Creighton was just outstanding right from the get-go. Defensively, they played extremely well.”
The game was over when Creighton took advantage of a 13-2 run on the Wildcats’ 33% shooting in the second half to take a 19-point lead, but Villanova did not go away quietly as they only lost 86-70 in the first of two meetings between the conference’s top dogs.
For the Wildcats, Justin Moore finished with 21 points while Jermaine Samuels had 16, but it was the Blue Jay’s offense that stole the show. Marcus Zegarowski returned to form with a 25-point masterpiece while Mitch Ballock secured 20 points on 6-8 3-point shooting. Creighton dominated in every aspect of the game, landing 59.3% of all shots overall and shooting 46.2% from beyond the arc compared to Villanova’s 37.5% shooting game. Villanova was a given, but Creighton proved why they could go to the Elite Eight this season.
Marquette vs. Seton Hall (Feb. 14): Desperado Time
In a must-win for either team, only one could fulfill that goal. The only problem standing in the way was that both teams were incredibly cold from any given spot on the court. Despite this, it was the Pirates who got out to an early start, picking up a six-point lead by halftime. In the second half, Seton Hall was leading by as much as nine, but the Golden Eagles were starting to pick up steam as they chipped away at the lead with every passing possession.
In the final minute, a dunk by Marquette’s Theo John cut the lead all the way to two, but free throws by Shavar Reynolds, Myles Cale
, and Jared Rhoden ended up being enough. Jump shots by Jamal Cain and DJ Carton could not tie the game, and Seton Hall won by a score of 57-51.
The Golden Eagles were led by 16 points from Carton and 14 from John as well as Koby McEwen’s 11. The Pirates were led by Jared Rhoden’s 20-point performance and Sandro Mamukelashvili’s double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds. To reinforce my reference of how cold the shots were, Seton Hall made 37% of their shots and converted 26.7% of all 3-point shots. Marquette converted three out of every 10 shots and shot 12% from beyond the arc, which included a streak of 15 consecutive misses. Both teams were even in almost every other category, but cold shooting is not going to get these teams past the first (or second) round of the Big East tournament.
Were there other games that could have been mentioned here? Maybe. Is there going to be a crazy finish in this conference? Absolutely. The Huskies are right in the middle of the pack of teams looking for a tournament spot, and only time will tell who gets in and who does not.
Until then, here’s to more Big East basketball as the tournament is only a month away.