Rushed Reactions: Villanova 76, Providence 66 [OT]

Posted by Justin Kundrat on March 10th, 2018

RTC’s Justin Kundrat (@justinkundrat) is providing on-site coverage of the Big East Tournament all week long.

Three Key Takeaways.

Villanova Adds Some More Big East Hardware to Its Trophy Case (USA Today Images)

  1. With Mikal Bridges playing his A game, Villanova is nearly impossible to beatJalen Brunson may have accumulated all the National Player of the Year accolades, but it was Bridges who made the key plays in overtime tonight. The 6’7″ swingman knocked down two critical three-pointers in the extra period to maintain Villanova’s tenuous lead over the Friars before making the game-winning play — with 25 seconds remaining and Providence then down six, he notched a block that the Wildcats were able to corral and correspondingly ice the game. Brunson is unquestionably the leader of this team, but Bridges’ play, when aggressive, is nearly impossible to contain. His release point is too high to contest from the perimeter; his long arms are too difficult to manage around the basket; and his oft-discussed defense is simply menacing.
  2. Providence is playing its best basketball of the season. When watching the Friars as recently as two weeks ago, a run like this was unforeseeable. Providence had dropped three of its last five games and had skirted by St. John’s and Georgetown on the coattails of its defense. Given the Friars’ length and interchangeable parts, though, their defense, particularly in crowding the lanes, has been solid for most of the season. But the starters’ offensive contributions were too inconsistent to give hope for a deep NCAA Tournament run, much less a bid. So this week, between Ed Cooley‘s masterful game-planning and the outbursts of point guard Kyron Cartwright, the scale has tipped in the opposite direction.  As a likely #8 or #9 seed, Providence will be a tough out if it can control the game’s tempo.
  3. The Big East Tournament never fails to disappoint. If there was ever a question about the institution of the Big East Tournament, it no longer exists. Providence amazingly played three consecutive overtime games, in addition to a number of other nail-biters here at Madison Square Garden. It seems like there’s a tweetstorm during the event’s semifinals and championship games demanding that everyone tune in because of the atmosphere combined with quality of play. Undoubtedly the whole country was watching tonight as a fury-laden, fire-breathing Providence squad took what might be the best team in the country down to the wire. It doesn’t seem to matter which teams are playing or who graduates from season to season, the Big East Tournament remains must-watch TV.

Star of the GameMikal Bridges (25 points) has always been the Villanova player with the highest ceiling and tonight it showed in spades. He was disruptive with his on-ball defense of Cartwright and his off-ball help defense when contesting shots. He also won the Big East Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award.


  • Jay Wright on Ed Cooley‘s coaching genius and Omari Spellman’s improved defense: “I think Cooley is one of the best coaches in the country… he gets you into mismatches, and they went after Omari. There were a number of possessions where he was matched up with Cartwright, which is the worst possible scenario. And I think he did well.”
  • Wright, on having Villanova pros at the game: “I’m up there and Kyle [Lowry] is telling me how good Mikal is… to hear that from those guys means a lot.”
  • Mikal Bridges, on changing his demeanor to be tougher: “Coach had to tell me that when I go through the tunnel, don’t smile.”

Sights & Sounds. The Garden was as electric as it’s ever been for the Big East Tournament. With two local schools and a sold-out arena, the back-and-forth nature of the game kept everyone in the building involved. And no, Jay Wright didn’t even realize that his counterpart had ripped his pants.

What’s Next? Both teams will take it easy until Sunday evening when they will learn of their NCAA Tournament fates.

Justin Kundrat (141 Posts)

Villanova grad, patiently waiting another 10 years for season tickets. Follow Justin on twitter @JustinKundrat or email him at

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