Five Thoughts From the Big East Tournament: Wednesday Evening EditonPosted by Brian Otskey on March 13th, 2013
Brian Otskey attended the evening session of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night and filed this report. Follow him on Twitter @botskey
- Villanova likely clinched a bid by winning tonight. It’s not that a win against St. John’s gets the Wildcats in, it’s the fact that they didn’t lose and now have 20 wins, including victories against Louisville, Marquette, Syracuse, Georgetown and at Connecticut. Twenty wins isn’t what it used to be but Villanova, in my estimation, has done enough to get into the field of 68. The Wildcats didn’t play particularly well overall but they did what they do best: get to the free throw line and convert. Villanova went 19-of-23 from the charity stripe, making five more free throws than St. John’s even attempted. Jay Wright’s team was +10 at the line in a 13-point win, pretty much the difference in an otherwise evenly played game. Both teams committed 17 turnovers in a sloppy contest that was interesting at times but the outcome never really in doubt.
- St. John’s might not even make the NIT. Just six weeks ago, St. John’s was 14-7 overall and 6-3 in Big East play. The Johnnies were being talked about as a possible NCAA Tournament team as one of the surprise teams in the conference. The Red Storm has since fallen on hard times and tonight’s loss to Villanova was their fifth in a row and seventh in eight games. At just 16-15 overall, it begs the question if St. John’s will even receive an NIT invitation. An 8-10 Big East record is certainly good enough (even though five of the wins are against teams that played on Tuesday night of the league tournament) but if the NIT committee is anything like the NCAA committee, conference record supposedly does not matter. It would be a good experience for the (very) young Red Storm to continue playing this season with a chance to get to the NIT finals here at Madison Square Garden, one of their home arenas.
- It was a disappointing turnout from St. John’s fans. For a school that plays some of its home games in this arena, the fan support St. John’s received was pathetic. There were more Villanova fans in attendance at the Garden tonight and one of the writers in the press conference even mentioned how this crowd was larger than what the St. John’s players normally see in this building. Steve Lavin has certainly brought some talent and buzz to Queens but that hasn’t yet translated to solid fan support. Of course, New York only loves winners and St. John’s just isn’t there yet in that regard.
- Rutgers has some pieces in place to make a move up the conference standings, especially next year when Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and the Catholic 7 are no longer around. Assuming no transfers or other personnel issues, the Scarlet Knights lose only Dane Miller and Austin Johnson. Head coach Mike Rice, although rumored to be on the hot seat despite his AD’s statements to the contrary, has two players coming into the program next year to replace Miller and Johnson. In a depleted league, Rutgers is a team that has the potential to make some noise. Myles Mack and Eli Carter (assuming he fully recovers from a fractured fibula) are great pieces to start with and will be more seasoned as juniors in the program. Wally Judge has shown flashes and will need to improve his production next season, along with Kadeem Jack. If Rutgers can get some frontcourt production, that will make its guards even more dangerous. Nothing is guaranteed but the potential is there for the Scarlet Knights.
- It wasn’t always pretty but Notre Dame survived Rutgers, setting up a monster Thursday of quarterfinal action. Thursday is often when things really heat up in the Big East Tournament because that’s when the top four seeds begin play. Thursday’s action is terrific from top to bottom with Georgetown/Cincinnati and Syracuse/Pittsburgh getting us going in the afternoon session followed by Louisville/Villanova and Marquette/Notre Dame in the nightcap. Looking ahead in this tournament never seems to work out but I can’t help but think about what one final Syracuse/Georgetown game, on semifinal Friday night, would be like. Insane would probably be a good word to describe it. But instead of moving ahead to Friday, let’s enjoy what should be a fantastic Thursday of Big East Tournament action.