March 7, 2014
By Sean Brennan
Special to BIGEAST.com
The long-awaited arrival of spring is still more than a week away, but March Madness will arrive right around noon on Saturday in the BIG EAST.
With just four games remaining on the regular-season docket, there is still much to be decided as far as positioning for next week’s BIG EAST Tournament Presented by NEW YORK LIFE at Madison Square Garden. Sure, there are a couple of teams who have already cemented their seeding for next week, led by newly-minted conference regular-season champion Villanova (27-3, 15-2 BIG EAST), fresh off its 77-70 victory over Xavier Thursday night.
Creighton (23-6, 13-4 BIG EAST) has also secured its seed, claiming the No. 2 spot while Seton Hall (15-15, 6-11 BIG EAST) is locked in at eighth place with Butler and DePaul battling it out for the ninth and 10th spots.
Other than that…
Providence, Xavier, St. John’s, Marquette and Georgetown could all still be on the move depending on Saturday’s outcomes as each will be looking to improve their respective “bubble” resumes.
In Saturday’s first game St. John’s (19-11, 9-8 BIG EAST) will travel to Milwaukee to take on Marquette (17-13, 9-8 BIG EAST) at noon (Fox Sports 1). Marquette, which has won 13 of the previous 15 meetings between the two programs, dropped a 74-59 decision to the Red Storm at Madison Square Garden back on January 28 in a game that saw D’Angelo Harrison drain six three-pointers en route to a 27-point night.
St. John’s can finish the season as high as fifth place or as low as seventh. A victory over Marquette Saturday would hand the Red Storm the No. 5 seed with Marquette taking sixth and Georgetown (17-12, 8-9 BIG EAST) finishing as the seventh seed. The Hoyas are at Villanova (2 p.m. Fox Sports 1) Saturday to close out their regular season.
However, should St. John’s lose to the Golden Eagles and Georgetown also lose at Villanova, the Johnnies would claim the sixth seed and the final bye into the tournament quarterfinals. But St. John’s could also drop into a first-night matchup in the BIG EAST Tournament with a loss and a Hoyas’ win over Villanova. In that scenario the Red Storm would finish as the seventh seed and it would be bye-bye to the bye as Georgetown would claim the sixth spot.
The Johnnies have not won at Marquette since Feb. 16, 2011 and Buzz Williams is 6-2 vs. St. John’s since taking over at Marquette. But if the Red Storm is to fulfill its goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament, a victory here – along with one or two at next week’s BIG EAST tournament are – probably are needed.
“When I came to St. John’s the goal was to elevate our basketball program into a consistent winner,” St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin said. “We’re not satisfied but we have made steady progress. Now we are looking forward to the Marquette game and the BIG EAST conference tournament. The objective is to continue to play a winning brand of basketball so we can position ourselves to do something special in March.”
A lot also hinges on Providence’s season finale at Creighton Saturday night (8:00 p.m. CBS Sports Network). If the Friars, who have 20 wins for the first time since the 2003-04 season, go into the CenturyLink Center and pull off the victory, it would give Providence an 11-7 conference mark and lock up the No. 3 seed for Ed Cooley’s crew. Providence won the first meeting between the two back on January 18 when Bryce Cotton led five PC players in double figures with 23 points in an 81-68 victory at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. Doug McDermott was “held” to 21 points that night but things could be far different come Saturday night.
Not only will McDermott be vying to become only the eighth 3,000-point scorer in NCAA history (admittedly he would need a big night as he is currently 44 points shy of the mark), but it will also be Senior Night at a sold-out CenturyLink Center for McDermott and his Bluejay bandmates, Ethan Wragge, Jahenns Manigat and Grant Gibbs. Toss in the fact that Creighton is 15-0 at home this season and you can see what Providence will be up against in Omaha Saturday night. Providence, however, is battle-tested in that it has already played in six overtime games this season, including four which went to double overtime. Should Providence falter, though, Xavier (20-11, 10-8 BIG EAST) would claim third place with the Friars finishing fourth. Xavier would finish fourth in the event of a Providence victory.
And while it may take McDermott until the BIG EAST Tournament next week to reach that storied 3,000-point mark, he should pass NBA Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson Saturday night as he sits just seven points ahead of McDermott in eighth place all-time.
In Saturday’s other BIG EAST game, Seton Hall, fresh off its upset of Xavier last Monday night, visits historic Hinkle Fieldhouse to take on a Butler team that greeted March with a 79-46 victory at DePaul following a winless month of February. Tip off time is set for 4:30 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.