The Big East's main event started off slow with multiple blow outs and a lack of highlight reel plays but Thursday and Friday night provided the thrills and excitement that was expected from the beginning.
Not only has the quality of basketball improved as the tournament has gone on but now the Big East will give it's fans an unexpected final between one of the best teams in the nation and a team that finished only .500 in conference play.
Buckle up for one more night under New York City's bright lights because a champion will finally be crowned.
#1 Villanova vs #6 Xavier 8 pm ET
During the regular season, the Wildcats swept the Musketeers winning by a combined 25 points in two match-ups but Villanova certainly looked beatable on Friday night against the Friars.
Despite hitting the critical shots down the stretch, showing their experience in big games and being one of the best teams in the country this season, the 'Cats struggled to shoot the three in the second half (one of their strengths) and they failed to contain Kris Dunn when he was coming off ball screens at full speed.
Maybe this will instill more confidence in Chris Mack's roster, whom really have nothing to lose while Villanova is playing to lock up a number one seed in the Big Dance next week.
Xavier has pulled off two upsets (against Butler and Georgetown) during this event but during the regular season they were one of the toughest teams in the country to figure out. They lost to DePaul, Seton Hall, Long Beach State, Auburn and Creighton on top of sweeping Georgetown, beating Butler at home by 17, crushing Murray State and beating Cincinnati in their in-state rivalry game. When Xavier is playing intense defense, distributing the ball and using Jalen Reynolds and Matt Stainbrook's strength to their advantage, they can play with any team in the Big East, including the top team, Villanova.
The Musketeers need to improve on their free throw shooting though. In the semifinals, Xavier shot 61 percent from the line and that helped Georgetown cut a 20 point lead down to one point. That can't happened against the 'Cats because they will take advantage of those mistakes before it's too late.
Villanova is the deepest deep in the Big East and they could use that to their advantage as J.P Macura, freshman guard from Minnesota, is likely out for Xavier with an ankle injury suffered Friday night. This puts Xavier at a significant disadvantage depth wise and now they may have to give Larry Austin Jr. some significant minutes at the guard position or they could run out of gas.
One area that will really be the difference maker in this showdown is Xavier's zone defense (they normally drop into a 1-3-1 zone, as used against Georgetown). The two main ways to beat a zone is to move the ball constantly and consistently hit your open jumpers. Villanova excels in both of these areas because of their unflappable chemistry and experience and that could will them to a celebration on Saturday night.