Some of the biggest March Madness stories come out of the Big East quarterfinals, but things played out just as expected this year.
The Big East quarterfinals held true to its tradition as an incredibly competitive, knockdown, drag out fight the likes of which you could find in pre-gentrified Hell’s Kitchen back in the 80s.
No quarter was given and none asked, but only four teams reach the semifinals when everything is said and done.
Villanova Wildcats vs. Providence Friars
The first game in this quadruple header was between the No. 1 seed Villanova Wildcats (looking for a sixth consecutive finish as either Regular Season or Conference Tournament Champions) and a scrappy Providence Friars squad coached by head coach Ed Cooney and featuring Alpha Diallo as their leading scorer outta New York, New York.
Meanwhile, Villanova has been struggling relative to how we’re accustomed to seeing them dominate the competition and looked prime for an upset by the thirsty, hungry Providence Friars.
Of equal concern for the Nova fateful is the current ranking of 23rd in major collegiate basketball. What that signifies is a need for Villanova to string together a few tough wins in order to avoid getting an uncharacteristically low seed in the NCAA tournament. Mission accomplished thus far for Nova, who defeated Providence in a 73-62 game that was actually a lot closer than the score would indicate.
Xavier Musketeers vs. Creighton Bluejays
The second game was even more of a barn-burner than the first as the 4-seed Xavier Musketeers ran up against a 5-seed Creighton Bluejays squad that was up for the challenge. Xavier would claw out a victory 63 to 61 win to advance to the semifinals.
Xavier found themselves in a juke joint brawl for their lives at halftime as Creighton used scrappy defense and timely three-point shooting to stay within seven points of the Musketeers. In the end, an inability to execute in the closing seconds of the game is what thwarted young Creighton’s hopes of advancing.
St. John’s vs. Marquette
Shamorie Ponds and the St. John’s Red Storm fought throughout the first half despite a hot-shooting Marquette Golden Eagles squad that saw Markus Howard torch all comers, including Big East Defensive Player of the Year Justin Simon, who sat down with two fouls with just over 8:30 left in the first half.
As difficult as Howard is to defend when he’s shooting off the dribble, Ponds was at times equally elusive and hard to guard when he was determined to get to the basket.
The Johnnies appeared to lock in early in the second half, deflecting several passes and making a concerted effort to play the passing lanes. However, all the scrappiness in the world means nothing if you can’t make a damn basket.
Howard, on the other hand, finished with 30 points and 7 rebounds for No. 2 seed Marquette.
Seton Hall vs. Georgetown
The Seton Hall Pirates were led by All-Big East selection Myles Powell out of Trenton, NJ, and it was obvious that the Georgetown Hoya’s freshman backcourt of John Akinjo and Mac McClung were suffering from a case of the jitters as each either turned the ball over or made an ill-advised play within the opening minutes of the game.
Meanwhile, the Pirates appeared to be making a concerted effort to attack the rim on every possession. Despite the size advantage, Georgetown only had 124 blocked shots as a team during the regular season, good for just 99th in the country. Hell, Patrick Ewing would be rolling over in his grave at that paltry total if he didn’t already die a slow death ont he sidelines early on.
With six minutes and change remaining in the 1st half, the Hoyas were down 18-points and Coach Ewing didn’t seem to have the answers like Kanye and Sway.
Powell would finish with a Big East Tourney record 29 points in the first half.