The two hottest teams in the league meet tomorrow afternoon for a matchup in Newark. That, and a quick look around the league at the men's basketball teams that are trending upward and downward as March approaches:
Seton Hall University
This tough and athletic squad has gotten two big wins this past week to gain some momentum for them to make a push for the NCAA tournament.
The Pirates barely edged St. John's at the Garden 62-61 last week, staying on the right side of "momentum". If the Johnnies pulled off the upset, Seton Hall might have suffered a devastating blow to its NCAA Tournament hopes. The Pirates blew a 19-point lead and had three big men foul out, and they were down three with 45 seconds left, but a win's a win.
Seton Hall moved even closer to the Big Dance with an 18-point win over Providence. The Pirates can credit their pressure on defense for carrying them to these big wins, for they're not a great shooting team - 44% FG. Their main players - sophomores Isaiah Whitehead, Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez - are embracing their roles this season. Seton Hall looks like they really enjoy playing with one another and if they can carry this momentum throughout the rest of the regular season and Big East Tournament, then they will be able to make the NCAA Tournament with a chance to earn some wins.
Fueled by an energetic home crowd, Xavier survived visiting Villanova to take the rematch between top-5 teams and boost its NCAA seeding. Balanced scoring and defense were the keys for the Musketeers in their 90-83 victory. Xavier closed to within one game of the conference lead by beating Villanova for the first time since joining the league. The loss for 'Nova was the first since January 24.
Xavier's Big East player-of-the-year candidate sophomore Trevon Bluiett (10 points on 3-of-7 shooting) had a relatively quiet night, but five other players scored in double figures. Off the bench, sophomore J.P. Macura chipped in 19, and junior Myles Davis had 16.
Villanova came into the night leading the Big East in points allowed at only 61.5 per game. Xavier's offensive efficiency was just too much, as the Muskies dished out 24 assists, shot 50 percent from the field and got to the free throw line 33 times. No specific seeds have been determined for The BIG EAST Tournament yet, though Villanova and Xavier will fill the top two positions and it's possible we may see a rematch of the 2015 BIG EAST final.
The two hottest teams in the BIG EAST will meet tomorrow (Sunday) for a 12:30 p.m. tip off. Seton Hall announced a sellout crowd for the Prudential Center.
Providence Friars spiraling downwards:
Providence has now lost its last 5 of 6 games. They have two great players in junior guard Kris Dunn and sophomore forward Ben Bentil, who essentially carry the Friars' offense. The question is whether the guys around them are going to show up. In their loss to Seton Hall, Bentil was ejected for a flagrant foul and the Friars shot 28% (19-for-67).
A look around the rest of the league: