Wildcats Down Creighton 74-60 to Claim BIG EAST Tournament Title
Villanova beat St. John's 108-67 in the quarterfinals and Seton Hall 55-53 in the semifinals.
Thursday I spent almost 12 hours inside Madison Square Garden, watching all four of that day's slate of games in the Big East Tournament. Forget for a moment that Villanova and Duke have won the past two national championships, and that both easily are among the nine or 10 teams who, in a parity-driven year, can believe themselves worthy of winning another one in Glendale, Ariz., at tournament's end.
The Wildcats lost two starters from last year's team but have a better record (31-3) this season. Good defense, sharing the ball and making 3-pointers is the formula that has led them to four consecutive Big East regular-season titles.
Outdueling all-Big Ten first-team point guard Nate Mason, who led the Golden Gophers (24-9) with 23 points, Walton took over the game when big German forward Moe Wagner got into foul trouble and D.J. Wilson didn't have his best.
Not thinking this is one of Coach K's better teams, but you should never overlook a team he coaches. Villanova G Jalen Brunson scored in double figures in all three Big East tournament games.
Villanova had 15 turnovers (an uncharacteristic amount for a team of their caliber) but they shot 46 percent from the field and 35 percent from beyond the arc.
Vladimir Brodziansky and Jaylen Fisher had 10 points apiece for the No. 8 seed Horned Frogs (19-15).
Walking around the court with one of the freshly cut nets around his neck, tournament MVP Josh Hart admitted the Wildcats had focused on this tournament after not winning it past year en route to their national title. Still, we have the Jayhawks pegged as the second-best team in the country. First-year coach Bryce Drew has Vanderbilt in the semifinals for the first time since 2013 with a win that should push his Commodores firmly into the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year. The tournament's top seed is allowed to use the Knicks' locker room, which is located very close to the court.
For Villanova, the sky is the limit for the Wildcats.
Josh Hart had 29 points and six rebounds as second-ranked Villanova captured its second Big East tournament championship in three years with a 74-60 victory over Creighton on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in NY.
According to the Creighton athletics website, the Bluejays have only played against Rhode Island once before - a 74-73 win for Creighton in the 2008 NIT.
This year's Big East Championship Game was a little different. The question is, can Nova cover the 8 points tonight. Fellow Musketeers teammate JP Macura finished with 22 points, off of 7/16 shooting. Moreover, Villanova leads the all-time series (9-2) against Creighton.
But while all the talk outside the program is about the Wildcats having a chance to be the first repeat champion since Florida in 2006 and 2007, the players insist it's not even on their mind. This path has more potholes than the Wildcats saw before last season's Elite Eight, and then Duke has all the weapons to make it an interesting night of it if both get to a Madison Square Garden matchup, which, by the way, would be a tougher ticket than even the Final Four. Virginia is playing much better since the 4-game losing skid in February and the emergence of freshman sharp shooter Kyle Guy has been a godsend in Charlottesville. He would take a desperation 3-pointer that would find its way through the bottom of the net with 6 seconds left to play.
So what did we learn from Creighton and Xavier?
If you want to pick a team from the Big East that's flying under the radar to watch out for in the NCAA tournament, Seton Hall is that team.
Not only are they Big East Champions, but the reality is: Villanova are the favorites to repeat. They are strong enough as a team to get a first-round win if Trevon Blueitt and JP Macura can make big shots down the stretch.
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