The Big East seemed to struggle as the season progressed throughout the season. However, they still earned four NCAA Tournament bids on Selection Sunday. By the end of Thursday night, only one team remained in the field of 68. The losses may have been bad, but the way the Big East teams played couldn’t have been a worse look.
Good News: Villanova Wildcats
The Villanova Wildcats won the Big East regular season and tournament title. Despite their accomplishments, the defending champions only earned the No. 6 seed. They faced the West Coast Conference champions Saint Mary’s Gaels in the first round and snuck away with a 61-57 victory. The Wildcats had to comeback from a small halftime deficit. They should have pulled away late, but foul shooting helped turn an eight point game into a four point contest with 22 seconds left. The Wildcats found a way to get a couple of stops and advance to the second round. They’ll be facing the Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday.
Big East Losses: Three (St. John’s, Marquette, Seton Hall)
The rest of the conference had a horrendous showing. St. John’s earned the final at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament field. They should have been left out completely after getting annihilated in the first half against the Arizona State Sun Devils. Still, the Red Storm had chances to steal a victory away due to multiple blunders. However, St. John’s day was highlighted by events like a wide open missed layup. They missed three free throws after getting fouled on 3-point shot. St. John’s also missed a pair a free throws with the game in the balance. Overall, they shot 8 of 31 from 3-point range. They also had 16 turnovers. Despite Arizona State committing 20 turnovers, the Johnnies lost 74-65.
Marquette seemed like they would have an advantage on the wings. They had a little more size with Sam and Joey Hauser. Markus Howard scored 26 points. Sam produced 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Joey scored eight points. The rest of the starters didn’t score and they were pretty much blown out from 15 minute mark of the first half. Ja Morant had 17 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds for Murray State’s 19 point win. It was the first NCAA Tournament triple double since Draymond Green did it in 2012. Tevin Brown led the Racers with 19 points and they had four players reach double figures. They sped passed the Golden Eagles in every facet of the game.
Seton Hall lost to the Wofford Terriers, 84-68. They were the only lower seeded Big East team in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. However, they were still playing a team from the SoCon. Despite getting down early, the Pirates fought back to take a lead. Jared Rhoden made a 3-pointer to give the Pirates a 60-59 lead with 7:48 left in the game. Myles Powell hit a 3-pointer then his 1 of 2 foul shots to make it a 67-66 Wofford lead with 4:37 left in the game. Well, the Terriers went on a 17-2 run to finish off the Big East tournament runner-up. The Terriers made three consecutive 3-pointers to turn a one point lead into a 10-point lead. Before you know it, the Pirates gave up 17 straight points before scoring the last two points of the game.
Now, what the Big East has left is old reliable. The Wildcats have won 2 of the last 3 national championships. However, they did lose in the second round to the Wisconsin Badgers in between the two titles. Will another Big Ten team knock the Wildcats out this year? They are the last Big East team standing.
In all, the Big East was outscored by 10 points per game during their four tournament games. That includes Villanova’s four point win. Otherwise, the conference lost games by an average of 14.6 points per game this week.