MLAX Minute: Denver, Villanova Square Off Friday

Denver's Ryan LaPlante

Denver's Ryan LaPlante

April 2, 2014

Composite Schedule | Statistics: HTML / PDF

NEW YORK - Denver, St. John's and Villanova came out of last weekend with 2-0 records in BIG EAST play, and one of the four conference contests in the upcoming days will help to break that three-way tie atop the standings.

The Pioneers head to Villanova on Friday for a 7 p.m. contest that will air live on CBS Sports Network. Dave Ryan and Evan Washburn will be the broadcast team.

St. John's was hoping to take temporary control of first place with a win at Rutgers on Wednesday. Instead, the Scarlet Knights spoiled the Red Storm's chances with an impressive 16-13 win in Piscataway that doubled to thrust them right back into the BIG EAST Tournament picture. Rutgers' victory also means no teams can clinch a conference tourney bid this weekend, although the Denver-Villanova winner will be in the driver's seat in the standings.

Other critical games this weekend include Providence at Georgetown Saturday at 3 p.m., and St. John's welcoming Marquette Sunday at 1 p.m. Rutgers visits Princeton Saturday at 7 p.m. in a non-conference battle for Garden State bragging rights.

BIG EAST Notebook

St. John's doubled up Providence 14-7 on Saturday in a game that was televised nationally on FOX Sports 1. Senior attackman Kieran McArdle was at it again for the Johnnies, leading their offensive charge with seven points. Four of those were assists, which gave him the program record with 124. He passed St. John's Hall of Famer Mike Bolger for the mark. The Red Storm's defense put forth a strong effort in front of a national TV audience as well, shutting out the Friars in the first quarter and holding them to seven goals. Joe Danaher had 17 saves for SJU.

It was only a matter of time before Marquette picked up its first BIG EAST victory. It didn't have to wait very long at all. The Golden Eagles held off a late Rutgers rally for a 14-13 win in Piscataway on Saturday to make program history. At 1-1 in the conference, Marquette finds itself in fourth place, one-half game ahead of 1-2 Rutgers with the head-to-head tiebreaker. After visiting St. John's on Sunday, the Golden Eagles have BIG EAST games remaining with Providence and Georgetown at home and Denver on the road.

Denver's 17-9 win at Georgetown in a soggy Washington, D.C., on Saturday kept the Pios in first place in the BIG EAST and holding at No. 6 in both major national polls this week. Bill Tierney's club is 8-2 on the season and has won five straight. Both St. John's and Villanova received votes in each poll this week but sit just outside the top 20.

Several BIG EAST teams and players are near the top of a handful of statistical categories as revealed by the NCAA on Monday. In the team rankings, Denver is sixth in scoring offense at 13.1 goals per game and Rutgers is close behind in eighth at 12.9. The Scarlet Knights are also fifth nationally in face-off percentage (.634) and seventh in man-down defense (.758) while dishing 8.0 assists per contest to sit fifth. Led by preseason BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year John LoCascio, Villanova is fifth in Division I with 10.33 caused turnovers. LoCascio owns a BIG EAST-leading 2.66 per game, which is sixth in the country. Elsewhere, Rutgers' Joe Nardella leads the nation at the X (76.4 percent) while Georgetown's Tyler Knarr is second with 10.8 ground balls per game and St. John's rookie goalkeeper Joe Danaher's 11.0 saves per game are 17th.

In addition to Kieran McArdle's offensive prowess this season, where he leads the BIG EAST and sits in the top six in the nation in goals (3.11), assists (2.78) and points (5.89) per game, the St. John's senior also ranks among the nation's best in career scoring. He owns the SJU career marks in all three categories, and leads the nation among active players with 124 assists and is second with 237 points. Duke's Jordan Wolf entered the week on top with 250.

Entering its first season in the BIG EAST, Denver was tabbed the preseason favorite in January in voting conducted by the league's seven head coaches. With two appearances in the national semifinals in the last three seasons, the Pioneers topped the poll with 36 points and six first-place votes. St. John's was next with 31 points and the last first-plate ballot. The rest of the poll was filled out by Villanova (25 points), Georgetown (22), Providence (12), Rutgers (12) and Marquette (9).

Villanova University will host the 2014 BIG EAST Men's Lacrosse Tournament on Thursday/Saturday, May 1/3 from Villanova Stadium. The top four teams in the regular-season standings will advance to the tournament, with the semifinals playing out Thursday. The two advancing teams will meet on Saturday with the conference title and automatic NCAA Tournament berth on the line. FOX Sports 1 will televise the championship game at 4:30 p.m. ET.

Upcoming Schedule
Wednesday, April 2
St. John's at Rutgers *, 7 p.m.

Friday, April 4
Denver at Villanova *, 7 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Saturday, April 5
Providence at Georgetown *, 3 p.m.
Rutgers at Princeton, 7 p.m.

Sunday, April 6
Marquette at St. John's *, 1 p.m.

Tuesday, April 8
Notre Dame at Marquette, 5 p.m.

* - BIG EAST game
All times Eastern