Over the last few days, there has been a lot of chaos in sports. The Bengals won a playoff game (I can text someone about it now), the Bills put the Patriots through a table and the Cowboys lost to the 49ers. Notably, several of the top teams in the nation (i.e., Baylor, UCLA, USC) suffered upsets.
Within this chaos, there is one sentence that describes the Big East. This conference is built different. The games I am about to go over are prime examples of why this conference meets those standards.
Writer’s Note: Rank Marquette (and possibly Creighton) next week, they have been on a roll as of late.
Player of the Week: Adama Sanogo – UConn
Freshman of the Week: Ryan Nembhard – Creighton
No. 14 Villanova vs. No. 17 Xavier (Jan. 12): The Rally: Part Two
The first time these two met, Villanova maintained their impressive record at the Finneran Pavilion with a second-half comeback. It was a high of 51 degrees in Cincinnati for the second meeting; most of the unseasonably high temperatures originated from the Cintas Center, where the two ranked teams turned the arena into a hot stove.
The Wildcats outscored the Musketeers 23-17 in the final 11 minutes of the first half behind consistent buckets by Collin Gillespie and Caleb Daniels. It was 54-42 with 10:11 left in the game and a Villanova blowout was inevitable.
But then Xavier went on a 10-0 run in six minutes to cut the lead down to two and with 2:18 left, Paul Scruggs tied the game with a clutch three-point shot. The final minute had two instances of a potential Musketeer win. With 51 seconds left, Xavier was down two, but Scruggs missed the go-ahead shot and Xavier had to foul. Scruggs would make a layup not long after, but Xavier had to foul down two again. Xavier’s three-point shot at the buzzer did not matter as Villanova swept the series 64-60.
Xavier rallied back when this game appeared to be over. Scruggs and Nate Johnson lit it up with 15 points each while Jack Nunge had nine off the bench. Villanova went hog wild with their scoring as Gillespie scored 21, Moore had 19 and Eric Dixon picked up 15. This was the toughest challenge Villanova will face all season, and this game alone should put the Wildcats back in the Top 10.
No. 20 Seton Hall vs. DePaul (Jan. 13): Congratulations Seton Hall, you played yourself
The Blue Demons were 0-4 in conference play and the game looked to be a breezy victory for the Pirates, who were prepping for a students-only game at the Walsh Gymnasium and carrying momentum from their overtime win, but the wrath of the Demons was about to be felt in full force.
DePaul scored 52 points in the first half (that is not a typo) thanks to two separate 9-0 runs. Seton Hall climbed back in the second half and an impossible comeback seemed likely as a 17-point deficit suddenly turned into a two-point game. In the final minute alone, there were five field goals (just one by DePaul). Thanks to a Philmon Gebrewhit block and free throws, the Blue Demons took home the 96-92 victory.
A poor first half cost the Pirates the chance at dominating the Blue Demons or completing the comeback. Jared Rhoden had 25 and Bryce Aiken had 22 for Seton Hall. Their shooting got better as the game progressed, but DePaul had the upper hand the whole way. Jalen Terry had 28 on 50% shooting and David Jones had 24 on 8-14% shooting. DePaul is much better than they were last year, and they proved it with a statement win in Big East play.
No. 20 Seton Hall vs. Marquette (Jan. 15): In Which the Pirates become the Las Vegas Raiders
The same day this game happened, the Las Vegas Raiders played an NFL playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Cincinnati. The Seton Hall Pirates were like the Raiders, coming off an intense game that will be talked about for ages. The Golden Eagles were like the Bengals, a Great Lakes team looking for a big home win.
The Golden Eagles, like the Bengals, started hot behind Darryl Morsell and the Marquette offense. Seton Hall responded by going on an 8-0 run to close the half like the Raiders’ touchdown drive, but this game was far from over.
The Pirates limited the Golden Eagles to 10points in the first 10 minutes of the second half before two field goals and a free throw gave Marquette the lead right back. Following a Jared Rhoden missed jumper with a minute left, Justin Lewis added a bucket of his own. Tied at 72 after two free throws, a foul on Aiken, that could have been called against Marquette, sent Greg Elliott to the free throw line, where he went 1-2. Seton Hall had a chance to win, but like Derek Carr’s game-ending interception, Seton Hall turned over the inbounds pass and Marquette gained another upset 73-72.
Aiken was in control with 28 points while Alexis Yetna had 15 points and 16 rebounds off the bench. Morsell picked up 26 while Lewis had 18 for Marquette. Pirates’ fans can say they were robbed because of one foul, but like the Raiders, several factors cost them a chance to win. The Pirates have to wait until Saturday against St. John’s to prove if they have fixed any issues, but if they haven’t, then the road to the postseason will get bleaker.
Nothing is guaranteed in this league. It does not matter if a team is favored by three or by 30, there’s always the potential for an upset. With the addition of consecutive games against a single opponent, the possibilities are endless in terms of what will happen both prior to and after a basketball game.