Thursday in NYC: Takeaways from the Big East Quarterfinals

Posted by Justin Kundrat on March 15th, 2019

Hard to believe that the Big East tournament is already underway — it felt like just yesterday that Villanova was cutting down the nets at Madison Square Garden. While the conference as a whole may be down this year, the tournament to date has offered no shortage of drama. Here are some of the major takeaways from Thursday’s quarterfinals action.

Myles Powell Dropped 31 Points in Leading Seton Hall Over Georgetown (USA Today Images)
  • Villanova’s offense sputtered its way to the finish line on Thursday afternoon, but the Wildcats ultimately got the result they needed. Based on its record and metrics, Providence, however, was perhaps written off a bit too quickly. The Friars’ offense was the worst in Ed Cooley‘s tenure, per KenPom, but the defense featured ample perimeter length that gave plenty of backcourt-oriented teams problems. So it shouldn’t be surprising that Villanova struggled to generate offense, amassing just 1.00 points per possession on 10-of-31 three-point shooting. The Wildcats will face a similarly constructed team in Xavier Friday night and the result could very well be different if Villanova fails to revitalize its dribble-drive offense.
  • Speaking of the Musketeers, they were flat out terrific on the defensive end today against Creighton. The 63-61 win effectively crushed Creighton’s NCAA Tournament hopes while keeping Xavier alive for same. The game featured a contrast in styles: a guard-heavy perimeter-oriented offense versus one that bullies opponents on the glass and around the basket. While the teams split the season series, it was won on the glass today by Zach Hankins. The 6’11” big man nearly set a season high with 22 points and nine rebounds, but more impressively, the defense was suffocating and good at getting back to prevent transition baskets. Throughout the second half, Xavier excelled in denying perimeter passes to eliminate any offensive fluidity, quickly closing out on shooters and letting Hankins disrupt any attempt to attack the rim. When it was all said and done, Xavier held Creighton to 0.91 points per possession, well below its average of 1.13 PPP.
  • Following a 32-point beat-down by Marquette, St. John’s may have just played its way out of the NCAA Tournament field. After bursting onto the scene with a 14-1 start and a short-lived Top 25 appearance, the Red Storm finished 10-10 against Quadrant One/Two teams. When all is said and done, they might end up with a NET somewhere in the 70s, which simply won’t be sufficient to result in an NCAA Tournament bid. If they don’t make the cut, the seat under Chris Mullin will get awfully warm…
  • It goes without saying then that Marquette looked unstoppable tonight, shooting 11-of-23 from deep and suppressing every run the Red Storm could throw at them. Big East player of the year Markus Howard continued his theatrics with 30 points — if you see Marquette on the TV guide, turn over the channel.
  • Amid a flurry of Georgetown turnovers, Seton Hall capitalized and easily took care of business in the nightcap. If there was any doubt about whether the Pirates would be again playing in the NCAA Tournament, a resounding 16-point victory over Georgetown erased those concerns. Winners of three straight, Kevin Willard‘s group is arguably playing their best basketball of the season, and will seek to further boost their seeding with a win over Marquette on Friday night. When their defense is fueling their offense like it is now, the Pirates will be a tough out.
Justin Kundrat (166 Posts)

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


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