Ladies and gentlemen, this is March. In one of the craziest seasons we have ever seen, March Madness has finally arrived, and the stakes have never been higher. Whether it is the absence of Duke or the return of UConn, there are quite a lot of storylines to follow.
Before that happens though, let’s look back at the Big East Tournament, one of many intriguing conference tournaments this year, and relish in how Georgetown really started from the bottom and now gets to dance.
Writer’s Note: Congratulations to Villanova (5), Creighton (5), UConn (7) and Georgetown (12) on making March Madness. As for Seton Hall, St. John’s and Xavier, it hurts to be snubbed and I hope to see you guys bounce back strong next year. Also, Georgetown is the new hottest team in the Big East.
Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player:
Dante Harris – Georgetown
Qudus Wahab – Georgetown
Jahvon Blair – Georgetown
Marcus Zegarowski – Creighton
Adama Sanogo – UConn
Jared Rhoden – Seton Hall
Georgetown 68, Marquette 49 (March 10): No Markus, Big Problems
Two things were made clear in this game, Marquette misses Markus Howard and Georgetown was a different team that improved from their first meeting. If you remember correctly, Georgetown squandered an 18-point lead in the second half in said first meeting, but when the time came to do that in the postseason, the Hoyas did not turn into the Atlanta Falcons. The Hoyas showed their defense was strong by allowing 14 points in the first half, then followed that up by scoring 36 offensive points in the second half. Jahvon Blair led the way with 20 points off the bench, while Marquette’s DJ Carton shined in his first conference tournament game. This was a painful season for the Golden Eagles, but it can only get better from here with the talent they have.
Butler 70, Xavier 69 (March 10, OT): Double Digit Classing
If the Three Musketeers were to take on the Hounds of the Baskervilles, the Musketeers would be winning the first half before dying a hero’s death in the second half. That is basically what happened in this game as Xavier led by as much as 19 over Butler, which was coincidentally the same number of points the Musketeers put up in the second half. There was a span where Xavier went ice cold, and although they were able to drag this game into overtime, Chuck Harris’ five points (one 3-point shot and two free throws) in the final minute popped Xavier’s bubble hopes. Harris led Butler with 21 points while Bryce Golden was not far behind with 20 of his own, a strong showing when compared to Zach Freemantle and Dwon Odom’s 14 points each. Xavier was able to salvage one major lesson from this horrendous defeat, no double-digit lead of 15+ points is safe from anyone.
DePaul 70, Providence 62 (March 10): Hoodwinked
In the words of Stephen A. Smith, Providence was hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray, run amuck and flat out deceived by Dave Leitao and the DePaul Blue Demons. Their season of odd wins and brutal losses came to a painful end after failing to recapture their lead in the last eight minutes of the game. Providence let a team that had two conference wins take control of the rebounding (46-35) and the shooting (46.3% – 35.1%) battles while failing to get ahead in most other categories. Nate Watson’s 18 points were no match for the 21-point performances of Charlie Moore and Javon Freeman-Liberty. For Providence, the future is concerning, especially with Nate Watson most likely leaving, and it may be soon that these weird losses become the norm in Rhode Island.
Georgetown 72, Villanova 71 (March 11): Giant Slays other Giant after 36 years
Back in 1985, two teams aptly named Georgetown and Villanova took on each other in the finals of March Madness, with Georgetown as a No. 1 seed and Villanova as a No. 8 seed. Villanova won that game, but the script was flipped this time. The key factor here was the absence of Collin Gillespie, and it made a huge difference in the tide of this game. Even though Villanova was up by 11 at one point in the second half, they could not pull away and ultimately blew the lead. Had Jeremiah Robinson-Earl not fouled, then perhaps Villanova advances, but the two free throws by Dante Harris and a missed game-winner from Caleb Daniels sealed those hopes shut. Harris was clutch for Georgetown with 18 points, while Robinson-Earl had 26 for Villanova alongside Jermaine Samuels’ 20 points. The question for Villanova now is how far they will get without Gillespie in this year’s March Madness.
Seton Hall 77, St. John’s 69 (March 11, OT): Bubblemania
The first of two rematches from the previous Saturday did not disappoint, which was hard to do knowing that the previous matchup saw Seton Hall blow an 18-0 lead and lose. Buckets were back and forth throughout most of this game, and it could have ended in regulation, but misses by Sandro Mamukelashvili in the final 10 seconds extended this classic into overtime. This game was pretty much the Jared Rhoden show, and his free throw 30 seconds into the extra period put the Pirates ahead for good, with the Johnnies trying their best to chip into the lead at every waking moment. Rhoden finished with a double-double of 19 points and 16 rebounds, while Mamukelashvili had a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds. The Red Storm should hold their heads high as this was an impressive season that has set them up to succeed in the future.
Creighton 87, Butler 56 (March 11): A Pecking Order, pt. 2
This game was a slightly anticipated rematch between two teams that had met the previous Saturday with the Bulldogs looking to impose some revenge. What they got instead was an absolute beatdown by Creighton. The Blue Jays were up by 16 at the half and spent most of the second half playing their entire bench, as they went on to win by a whopping 31 points. Zegarowski led the way with 18 points for Creighton, while Damien Jefferson and Christian Bishop both also finished in double figures. Creighton knew not all their games were going to be cakewalks, but it was nice for them to walk away with a gigantic win in this one.
UConn 94, DePaul 60 (March 11): Utter Domination of Evil
You know how the record for largest margin of victory was 31 points? That was broken the next game when the Huskies won by 34. In the process, they built a 23-point lead heading into the half and spent most of the game applying to the college basketball version of the dunk contest, even if it came at the price of James Bouknight cramping up and being lifted like Spiderman in Spiderman 2. Either way, the main storyline is that the Huskies had 21 more rebounds than the Blue Demons and Freeman-Liberty’s 19 was nothing compared to the 14-point slaughters of Adama Sanogo, RJ Cole and double-double man Tyrese Martin (10 rebounds). To summarize this game in two events, Dan Hurley applied for the role of Mermaid Man and ANDREW HURLEY HIT A 3-POINTER!
Georgetown 66, Seton Hall 58 (March 12): Sinking Sea Shanty
I thought I heard Patrick Ewing say, “Everybody in this building should know who I am.” The Hoyas went to their first conference final since 2010 with a dominant eight-point victory of the Pirates as they led for most of the game and outshot the Pirates (43.8% to 38.7%) despite their loaded ammunition. After an equalizing basket from Mamukelashvili, the Hoyas never looked back and started to pull away in the final minutes of the game, using seven free throws to lead the way in what was not considered garbage time. Despite Rhoden’s 22 points, no one could answer the 19 points put up by Jamarko Pickett or the 15 put up by Harris. At this point, the Hoyas were proving themselves to be an underdog team that could easily be stealing a bid, thus reinforcing the momentum Ewing applied to his team after their most recent COVID-19 pause.
Creighton 59, UConn 56 (March 12): Pain
There are no other words to describe this game but pain. Albeit, this was the best game in the conference tournament from start to finish, but pain. No one scored more than 14 points in the game (Bouknight and Jefferson led their teams with 14 points each), and the offense for both teams was incredibly cold as no one shot better than 40% from the field, which is enough to indicate pain. The defenses were not great on either side, and weird fouls were called on either side … pain. Overall, this game was exciting, intriguing and painful to watch as both teams swapped leads repeatedly, which has the makings of a possible rivalry that could take place next season.
Georgetown 73, Creighton 48 (March 13): The Rise of the Bid Stealer
This game was incredibly close and down to the wire until the Blue Jays took a 13-6 lead. If that does not satisfy you enough, how about when the game was tied at 18 when the Hoyas began their run of scoring 18 consecutive points? This conference finals matchup had all the makings of an intense fight until the Hoyas ran away with the game late in the first and well into the second half by not choking an 18-point lead. Either way, the underdog rally had been complete, and the Hoyas were able to successfully earn their eighth conference championship with a dominating 25-point victory. Chudier Bile led the way with 19 points, while Qudus Wahab had a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds. The Hoyas really proved themselves as the hottest team in basketball with this dominant win and stole a bid from other possible contenders in the process. I guess you can say life is good.
After over a year off, this was the tournament we needed, and it met expectations incredibly well. Congratulations to the teams moving onto March Madness and for those that did not make it, there is always next year.