After an exciting opening round that ran well past midnight, the rest of the Big East is ready to get in the action at Madison Square Garden. Here is a look at each of the four quarterfinal games for the Thursday slate of the 2022 Big East Tournament.
No. 1 Providence (24-4) vs. No. 9 Butler (14-18)
When: 12 p.m. ET
Key players for Providence: #0 Nate Watson (6-10, 260) Sr., C; #1 Al Durham (6-4, 180) Sr., G; #4 Jared Bynum (5-10, 180) Jr., G; #11 A.J. Reeves (6-6, 205) Sr., G; #14 Noah Horchler (6-8, 220) Sr., F
Key players for Butler: #2 Aaron Thompson (6-2, 190), Sr., G; #3 Chuck Harris (6-2, 195) Sr., G; #10 Bryce Nze (6-7, 235) Sr., F; #41 Simas Lukosius (6-6, 230) Fr., G
2021-22 season series: Providence swept Butler
- Providence defeated Butler at home, 69-62, on Jan. 23
- Providence defeated Butler on the road in overtime, 71-70, on Feb. 20
Was Butler’s opening round win just a flash in the pan, or the start of something more?
The Bulldogs were slumping entering the Big East Tournament, losing each of their last five games to end the regular season. Xavier also had its share of late-season struggles, but gutting out an overtime win should help the Bulldogs moving forward. They’ve already hung in tight with the Friars in both regular season meetings, but they’ll hope the third time is the charm. As for Providence, whether you want to call it luck or being battle-tested, or even a little bit of both, their experiences with being in close battles should only help them for the madness of March.
Providence will have Al Durham back after being out last week with a sports hernia, another weapon alongside All-Big East second team selections Jared Bynum, who was also Big East Sixth Man of the Year, and Nate Watson, who tortured the Bulldogs in both meetings this season. Butler has nothing to lose and with Bo Hodges looking to get back into a groove after missing plenty of games this season, if Simas Lukosius can follow up with another big game, that might be the X-Factor and additional scoring punch to help Chuck Harris and the rest of the Bulldogs pull off another stunner.
KenPom predicts: Providence wins, 68-61, and is a 76% favorite.
Vegas says: Providence is a 7.5-point favorite, per DraftKings Sportsbook
My prediction: Providence over Butler
No. 4 Creighton (20-10) vs. No. 5 Marquette (19-11)
When: 2:30 p.m. ET
Key players for Creighton: #2 Ryan Nembhard (6-0, 167) Fr., G; #5 Alex O’Connell (6-6, 185) Sr., G; #11 Ryan Kalkbrenner (7-1, 256) So., C; #44 Ryan Hawkins (6-7, 222) Sr., F;
Key players for Marquette: #10 Justin Lewis (6-7, 245) Fr., F; #22 Tyler Kolek (6-3, 190) Fr., G; #32 Darryl Morsell (6-5, 205) Sr., G; #35 Kur Kuath (6-10, 215) Sr., F
2021-22 season series: Creighton swept Marquette
- Creighton defeated Marquette on the road in double-overtime, 75-69, on Jan. 1
- Creighton defeated Marquette at home, 83-82, on Feb. 20
These two schools have had some great battles over the years since conference realignment, and this quarterfinal meeting is looking like another exciting entry. After the graduation of Doug McDermott in 2014, these two teams have each won eight games against one another. 15 of the 16 meetings were decided by eight or fewer points, and two needed overtime.
None of Creighton’s wins over Marquette came easily this season, but there was one consistent theme between both games that definitely played a role in sweeping the series: Creighton’s defense on standout redshirt freshman Justin Lewis. The Bluejays had the clamps on the All-Big East first-teamer in both games. Lewis, who had the third-highest scoring average in the conference at 17.1 points per game, was held to nine points on 4-of-18 shooting in Creighton’s double-overtime win on Jan. 1. The Bluejays limited him once again on Feb. 20, holding him to 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting.
All-Big East second team selection Ryan Hawkins and Big East Defensive Player of the Year Ryan Kalkbrenner will look to limit him once again, but it’s hard to imagine a player of Lewis’ caliber getting shut down once again. Marquette has cooled off a ton since a red-hot January, but it remains a formidable team with Shaka Smart. As the old adage goes, it’s difficult to beat a team three times in one season. Marquette may have fallen short in two close meetings, but it might get the last laugh on Thursday.
KenPom predicts: Creighton wins, 71-69, and is a 58% favorite.
Vegas says: Marquette is a 3-point favorite, per DraftKings Sportsbook
My prediction: Marquette over Creighton
No. 2 Villanova (23-7) vs. No. 7 St. John’s (17-14)
When: 7 p.m. ET
Key players for Villanova: #2 Collin Gillespie (6-3, 195) Sr., G; #3 Brandon Slater (6-7, 220) Sr., F; #5 Justin Moore (6-4, 210) Jr., G; #14 Caleb Daniels (6-4, 210) Sr., G; #23 Jermaine Samuels (6-7, 230) Sr,. F; #43 Eric Dixon (6-8, 255) So., F
Key players for St. John’s: #0 Posh Alexander (6-0, 200) So., G; #1 Aaron Wheeler (6-9, 205) Jr., F; #2 Julian Champagnie (6-8, 215) Jr., G/F; #11 Joel Soriano (6-11, 260) Jr., C
2021-22 season series: Villanova swept St. John’s
- Villanova defeated St. John’s at home, 73-62, on Jan. 29
- Villanova defeated St. John’s on the road, 75-69, on Feb. 8
The Wildcats may have swept the Johnnies, but there were a couple of scares. Villanova would dominate the first 25-30 minutes of the game, before St. John’s would kick it into high gear and finish strong. The Wildcats led comfortably by 20 in their last meeting at Madison Square Garden, only to have the Red Storm seemingly come out of nowhere with a 23-6 run in the final minutes of the game — with a shot to even tie and potentially force overtime.
The key for the ‘Cats has been their defense, limiting the Big East’s second-highest scorer, Julian Champagnie, to an average of 10.5 points per game and a combined 8-for-27 on the floor. Champagnie had never gotten into a groove where he could impact the game. Posh Alexander was also a non-factor in the first meeting, but was out with an injury for the rematch at the Garden. Aaron Wheeler may have caught them by surprise, so they’ll be better prepared to not allow a 31-point outing.
For St. John’s, it’ll need to find a way to get going early. It had to climb out of huge deficits against the ‘Cats, so a good start will be crucial for its upset bid. Its uptempo style and high-pressure defense will look to disorient the ‘Cats. Mike Anderson aims for 40 minutes of hell, it hasn’t happened against the ‘Cats yet — maybe just 8-10 minutes — but it also depends on which St. John’s team shows up on the court. With a one-two punch like Alexander and Champagnie anything can happen, especially when other guys can get going like it did in a high-scoring 92-73 win over DePaul.
KenPom predicts: Villanova wins, 78-72, and is a 73% favorite.
Vegas says: Villanova is a 5-point favorite, per DraftKings Sportsbook
My prediction: Villanova over St. John’s
No. 3 UConn (22-8) vs. No. 6 Seton Hall (21-9)
When: 9:30 p.m. ET
Key players for UConn: #2 R.J. Cole (6-1, 185) Sr., G; #4 Tyrese Martin (6-6, 215) Sr., G; #5 Isaiah Whaley (6-9, 225) Sr., F; #21 Adama Sanogo (6-9, 240) So., F; #44 Andre Jackson (6-6, 205) So., G
Key players for Seton Hall: #0 Kadary Richmond (6-6, 200) So., G; #14 Jared Rhoden (6-6, 210) Sr., G; #21 Ike Obiagu (7-2, 265) Sr., C; #22 Myles Cale (6-6, 210) Sr., G
2021-22 season series: 1-1 series split
- Seton Hall defeated UConn at home in overtime, 90-87, on Jan. 8
- UConn defeated Seton Hall at home, 70-65, on Feb. 16
The last game and definitely not the least. It wasn’t pretty, but Seton Hall will look to shake off its mistakes and nurse some injuries from a 57-53 opening round win over conference winless Georgetown. The Pirates enter with six-straight wins and appear to have turned a corner after some turbulence in January. They haven’t lost since Feb. 16, when they fell to UConn on the road.
With Bryce Aiken out and Kadary Richmond hurt, it’ll be up to senior veterans Jared Rhoden and Myles Cale to set the tone. It’ll likely be another close battle and the odds won’t be in the Pirates’ favor.
UConn doesn’t plan on stopping short this time around, especially after losing in the Big East Tournament semifinals last season. Coach Dan Hurley faces his alma mater and while the Pirates are limited with injuries, he’ll have a variety of weapons and players to pick from.
UConn is the only team that has two All-Big East first-teamers this season, with leading scorer and clutch guard R.J. Cole, as well as sophomore standout Adama Sanogo. Tyrese Martin, who averaged 13.4 points and 7.6 rebounds, will play like he has something to prove, after not even earning an honorable mention. Also keep an eye out for do-it-all Andre Jackson, who provides a little of everything as a sophomore, mostly as a rebounder, facilitator and defender. Sanogo gets most of the buzz, but Isaiah Whaley is no slouch and was the 2021 Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year, an aspect that gets lost at times in the excitement for Sanogo.
Lastly, it’ll be fun seeing these two frontcourts go against each other. With defensive stalwarts and scoring studs on both sides, especially with Ike Obiagu coming off of a seven-block performance that looked easy for him.
KenPom predicts: UConn wins, 69-67, and is a 58% favorite.
Vegas says: UConn is a 5-point favorite, per DraftKings Sportsbook
My prediction: UConn over Seton Hall