Rushed Reactions: Seton Hall 64, #3 Villanova 63Posted by Brian Otskey on March 13th, 2014
Brian Otskey will be reporting from the Big East Tournament all week.
Three key takeaways from Seton Hall’s dramatic Big East Quarterfinal upset of Villanova.
- Villanova’s chances at a top seed took a major hit. Seton Hall isn’t a terrible team but because of some bad losses and a weak non-conference schedule, its RPI is well outside of the top 100. This is only Villanova’s fourth loss of the season, but it means that it won’t be playing any more games until next week after the brackets are announced. The Wildcats are light on big-time wins so their resume will be looked at with more scrutiny after this loss. The general consensus was that Villanova would earn a No. 1 seed with a Big East Tournament title or even just a trip to the championship game, but that won’t happen now and Villanova’s chances of getting the final top seed are significantly lower.
- Seton Hall played with a ton of confidence. After surviving a Butler team that beat them twice, the Pirates played with nothing to lose and gave it everything they had today. For a hard-luck team, it finally paid off. Coming into this tournament, Seton Hall had lost an astounding six games either by one point or in overtime. In two games at Madison Square Garden, Kevin Willard’s team has flipped the script with two one-point victories and one massive upset. This win against Villanova, ranked third in the AP Top 25, was Seton Hall’s first ever top-three win in program history. The Pirates had previously been 0-30 against the top three of the AP poll before this afternoon’s win.
- Free throw shooting cost Villanova the game, but points off turnovers nearly won it for the Wildcats. Villanova shot 15-of-25 (60 percent) from the charity stripe this afternoon with JayVaughn Pinkston in particular having a very rough game (3-of-10). For as much as free throws eventually wound up costing the Wildcats the game, disrupting Seton Hall’s offense and creating live ball turnovers. Villanova turned those into quick points with most of them coming during a 16-0 run that allowed the Wildcats to turn a 13-point deficit into a three-point lead, a run that seemed to take the air out of Seton Hall’s upset bid at the time. Villanova’s pressure bothered the Pirates for most of the second half, forcing them into wasted possessions and bad shots. However, the free throw struggles proved insurmountable for Villanova.
Star of the Game: Sterling Gibbs, Seton Hall. While Gibbs did not have the greatest of games overall, his Kemba Walker-like buzzer beater is the iconic moment of this year’s Big East Tournament (to this point). Gibbs got the ball off an inbounds pass from Jaren Sina and simply made a big-time play. Eugene Teague and Patrik Auda helped build Seton Hall’s big lead and deserve a mention as well. After the game, Gibbs himself deflected praise and singled out Teague and Auda as the reasons why Seton Hall was able to win the game.
Sights and Sounds: Who says the Big East Tournament is different? It certainly didn’t appear that way for this game with a strong crowd in attendance and an incredible atmosphere thanks to a great basketball game. The building was waiting for the Villanova run that everybody knew would come after Seton Hall took a 13-point lead, and the energy in MSG over the final minutes was no different from previous Big East Tournaments. The Garden was absolutely rocking when Gibbs made his buzzer-beater. There is just something about this building, this city, and this event that make it college basketball’s best conference tournament.
Seton Hall will advance to Friday’s semifinal round for the first time since 2001, when the Pirates lost to eventual champion Boston College. This will only be Seton Hall’s second appearance on Friday night since it made four straight trips to the semifinals from 1991-94. Seton Hall will face either fourth seeded Providence or fifth seeded St. John’s (game in progress).
As for Villanova, Jay Wright and his squad will head back to Pennsylvania and have a week of rest before NCAA Tournament begins play next week. Villanova will find out its seed and its opponent along with everyone else on Sunday evening. You never know, but the Wildcats may be back at MSG in a couple of weeks for the East Regional.