While almost everyone in New York was busy watching the Knicks win their fifth-straight game, then continuing to follow the Phil Jackson-to-NY news, there was some basketball being played at Madison Square Garden. It was kind of weird basketball.
Sloppy may be the best term to describe it; there was an abundance of fouls and a ton of missed jumpshots. The only of the four teams to play that shot better than 36% in the first half, Georgetown, lost 60-56 to DePaul. Seton Hall, going just 5/20 from deep, fought off Butler 51-50.
Then there were some odd storylines - like D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera becoming just the sixth player in Big East Tournament history to go at least 10/10 from the charity stripe in a game, or Seton Hall improving their record to 13-12 (!) in Big East 1st round games. As Pirates Coach Kevin Willard put it, "Just getting a 'W' in the Big East Tournament, it's a great feeling." They've been few and far between in recent years.
In the end however, two thrilling finishes emerged, and one somewhat comical upset in the 11-20 DePaul Blue Demons topping the 17-13 Georgetown Hoyas who were essentially ranked 34th entering the season. Georgetown hopped out to an eight-point lead with twelve to go in the first, but went on to miss two threes, commit two fouls, and turn the ball over once over the next four minutes while recording just one layup to help DePaul crawl back in. The Blue Demons eventually took the lead in the second, and pushed it to eight with 2:40 to go, but went scoreless for the remainder of the game. They still managed to win by six, which continues on with the theme of "weird".
They'll go on to face Doug McDermott and Creighton tomorrow night at 7, where they likely can't get away with shooting 36% to open the game as they did tonight. A complete performance is necessary.
Seton Hall, meanwhile, will play the tournament's top seed Villanova at Noon. They made 11 of 24 shots in the second half, so it wouldn't shock me if they gave the Wildcats a run for their money. Villanova's been a shaky pick in the last few tournaments, and if Arcidiacono goes cold, it may help Seton Hall hang. They were very lucky to escape tonight with a win over Butler though, giving them a few shots down the stretch to steal the victory. I'm still putting my money on 'Nova, but look out for a nailbiter.
Speaking of Butler, it bears mentioning this was their first Big East Tournament Game. Without Brad Stevens this team looks very different. It's going to take me a bit to get used to a March without Butler.
Anyway, they get to watch the rest of the tournament from the couch, and you do too. Four games are on tap tomorrow, and they're all worth looking forward to. Sure, it's not last year's Big East, but St. John's, Creighton, Villanova, and Xavier are all exciting.