Fans of the old Big East may not even recognize a championship matchup between the likes of the Creighton Bluejays and the Providence Friars, but after a tournament of thrilling finishes and upsets, those are the two that remain.
The No. 2 seed Bluejays handled the No. 3 seed Xavier Musketeers 86-78, while the No. 4 seed Friars held off the No. 8 seed Seton Hall Pirates 80-74 in Friday’s semifinals action in Madison Square Garden.
Creighton held a 19-point lead, but Xavier came roaring back in the second half to cut the deficit to five with just more than a minute remaining. Ultimately, the Bluejays prevailed behind timely free-throw shooting and superstar Doug McDermott’s 32 points.
McDermott finished a perfect 10-of-10 from the charity stripe and put the game on ice in the final minute.
As for the Friars, LaDontae Henton posted 26 points and 14 rebounds, while Bryce Cotton scored 18 points and dished out 10 assists. Seton Hall threatened on multiple occasions in the second half, but Providence controlled the tempo for the majority of the game.
Henton discussed the fact that his team envisioned making it to the Big East tournament finals after the game, according to the Associated Press, via ESPN.com:
“This was one of our goals coming into the season. Madison Square Garden, it's a big place to play at, a great place to play at. And we know we can compete with all the teams in here.”
It all sets up a thrilling championship contest. Here is a look at the schedule, including the television and live stream information:
Big East Tournament Championship: No. 2 Creighton vs. No. 4 Providence
Date: March 15
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV: Fox Sports 1
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Now that we know what the schedule looks like for Saturday’s tilt, let’s dig into a prediction for how the game will unfold.
The best players shine the brightest in March.
McDermott isn’t only the best player in the Big East, he’s one of the best players in the entire country.
The senior averaged better than 26 points and eight rebounds a contest during the season and has been nearly unstoppable in the Garden, with 32- and 35-point performances. However, it was the Bluejays' last game against Providence that McDermott posted one of his best games of his career.
McDermott torched the Friars in the regular-season finale on March 8 to the tune of 45 points behind 17-of-25 shooting.
It has been an impressive stretch, as Matt Schick of ESPN U pointed out in a tongue-in-cheek fashion:
Look for McDermott to continue his hot streak on Saturday and lead his team to a Big East tournament title in his school’s first ever season in the conference.
The Henton and Cotton duo will keep Providence in the game throughout the contest, but McDermott’s timely scoring down the stretch will prove to be the difference.
Looking forward, though, there is more at stake for the Friars.
They could be safely in the NCAA tournament field for the first time in 10 years after reaching the Big East finals, but they can completely take any Selection Sunday worries away by beating Creighton.
Providence will come out with the appropriate energy befitting a bubble team (albeit, a somewhat safer bubble team than most), but McDermott and the rest of the No. 1 ranked team in Ken Pomeroy’s pace-adjusted offensive efficiency ratings (as of Saturday) will simply outscore the Friars.
Prediction: Creighton 91, Providence 83
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