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Big East Tournament Recap

By Matt Hill

UCONN head coach Dan Hurley has already won a Big East regular season title and a national championship in his time at UCONN, but there was one little thing missing for his resume that he really wanted.

On Saturday night he grabbed that elusive Big East Tournament Championship, and he relished in it.

UCONN defeated Marquette 73-57 to win the Big East Tournament Championship and as a result grabbed the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The first half was a defensive slugfest as the Huskies only led by two points at the half 26-24 and it looked like this was going to be a battle till the end.

The second half, though, was all UCONN. And really, a Donovan Clingan takeover. UCONN took the lead for good at 39-37 with 11:50 to go in the game and after that the Huskies were dominant.

UCONN led 55-44 in the second half and never looked back from there the Husky defense took over led by Clingan, who had 22 points and 16 rebounds.

Clingan did not win the T3 Bracketology Player of the Year mainly because he was injured a good part of the season. However, I don't think anyone is more valuable to his team than Clingan, almost to the point where they are nearly unbeatable with him.

Not to be outdone, Tristen Newton had 13 points and 10 assists and was named the tournament MVP.

The Huskies continued the onslaught to the very end and claimed the championship.

For Marquette, it was an absolutely heroic run to the championship playing without point guard Tyler Kolek. The Eagles overachieved this tournament and will have Kolek back for the NCAA Tournament.

Marquette head coach Shaka Smart has worked his magic again in Milwaukee and now the Eagles have a real shot at the Final Four.

Kam Jones topped Marquette with 13 points and eight rebounds.

This night and week belonged to the Huskies. UCONN is now the overwhelming favorites to win the national championship. While Houston, North Carolina, Purdue, Tennessee and Arizona all lost in their conference tournaments, UCONN survived.

We will get into the NCAA Tournament in a bit, but the Huskies are sitting very pretty heading into the dance.



UCONN 95, St. John's 90

This game will be remembered for UCONN head coach Dan Hurley trying to get a friend of Rick Pitino's thrown out of the game in the stands or in this case on the sidelines.

Hurley demanded someone be thrown out which later it came out that it was one of St. John's head coach Rick Pitino best friends. Hurley had no luck with that and the fan stayed.

This had not been the first time Hurley got into it with a Big East crowd. He went after the Blue Crew at Creighton recently and that organization was suspended by Creighton.

As far as the game, it was a good one as it was an offensive spectacular in the first half, the exact opposite of the championship game with UCONN meaning they can win more than one way.


Marquette 71, Villanova 65 (OT)

In the game of the tournament, Marquette outlasted the Cats in thrilling fashion.

The score was tied at 58-58 heading into the OT, but playing without Kolek, the Eagles stepped up in the OT and pulled it out.

Kam Jones led Marquette with 18 points.

This ended Villanova's NCAA hopes, but the Cats gave Marquette a great game and it was a fun one to watch.

First Round

Villanova 58, DePaul 57

After pretty much ignoring the Blue Demons all year, DePaul finally had its moment in the sun.

DePaul had a miserable year, only winning three games in 32 attempts, but on this night, and no offense to Villanova, really should have won this game.

Villanova hit a last second shot at the end of the game to secure the win. It was heartbreak for DePaul, but it was also a heroic effort for a group of young men that had been through a lot.

Former Butler and Ohio State coach Chris Holtman, really the last coach to have success at Butler, is now the new DePaul head coach. I expect a good improvement. Finding fans in a pro sports-Illinois Fighting Illini town is going to be difficult, but they have done it before.

You only wish the best for the Blue Demons. Their fans are small in number but very loyal to their team. I think everyone not from Philadelphia was cheering for DePaul to win that game, even with Villanova on the bubble.

And this wraps up another great Big East Tournament, the Big One as Gus Johnson says. Everyone said the new Big East would never make it over a decade ago and now the conference is as strong as it has been in a long time.

The new Big East has done some things different from the old Big East, for example signing a contract with Fox Sports instead of ESPN, but it has all worked to this point. It is just a tremendous basketball league, even if it was a little down after the top three teams this year.


There was a lot of rumbling on social media on Sunday night from Big East supporters about the league getting three bids. As good as the Big East is at the top, there are reasons why the middle of the pack teams were not rewarded.

I have seen posts like the selection committee's system is flawed and things of that nature. No it is not.

The Big East did not get it done in the non-conference part of the season and when you turned the channel everyone was playing Northeastern schools with NETs in the 300s. The Big East has to up the any on the non-conference schedule.

The one exception was Xavier, who had a top 5 Strength of schedule and that's why they stayed in contention for a bid as long as they did.

Another thing I have seen is why did the Mountain West get so many bids? The Mountain West has nothing to do with the Big East not getting more than three bids.

According to our resident bracketologist T3 from T3 Bracketology says the Mountain West teams for the most part were under-seeded in the tournament, with two of the six being placed in the play-in game and the committee saying New Mexico, a team that has second-week potential, had to win the Mountain West Tournament to get in.

Another thing that happened was the bubble shrunk when N.C. State, Oregon, UAB, New Mexico and Duquesne won the conference tournament. If this doesn't happen, Seton Hall would have been in the dance.

St. John's even with all of that happening still would not have been in the dance. The one that was the most questionable on this bubble was Virginia getting in. However, the Big East should have never left it up to the committee and they did with questionable results and scheduling in the non-conference.

It really wasn't a slap in the face that people made this out to be. The Big East was great at the top and very bad in the last two spots. The 4 through 9 spots were very even and didn't have a lot of separation between them. Simply put, Georgetown and DePaul probably cost this league at least one if not two bids.

The league office now is going to have to go to work to make sure this does not happen again.


UCONN vs Stetson, East Region

Some of you may know I also cover the SoCon for this outlet and Stetson is a former A-Sun opponent of East Tennessee State. Stetson is a great story, but I think UCONN wins big and most likely has the biggest margin of victory of the second round (Taking in the First 4 as the first round).

The rest of the draw for UCONN is going to be rough. Iowa State, Illinois, Auburn San Diego State and FAU are all in this region. There are three Final Four teams from last year.

The Huskies despite this draw are still heavy favorites to get to the Final Four. Clingan inside causes matchup problems for everyone. Expect the Huskies to be fine.

Marquette vs Western Kentucky, South region

Marquette is expected to have Kolek back for this one. That should carry them to the win. After this game, it gets a lot tougher. Good chance Marquette would play Florida and if they got by them Kentucky. Both of those teams are hot right now in the Southeastern Conference. Many have Kentucky in the Final Four. Marquette could be there as well.

Creighton vs Akron (Midwest)

The Blue Jays may have the toughest of the three Big East selections as the Zips match up well with Kalbrenner down low so this could be interesting. Of the top seeds, Creighton seems to have drawn one of the tougher first round opponents.

Creighton, if it wins, will face the winner of South Carolina and Oregon in the second round with Tennessee possibly lurking in the 16 and then Purdue in Elite 8.


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