NEW YORK — Currently, half of the four projected No. 1 seeds in the 2018 NCAA Tournament come from the same league, and those teams, Xavier and Villanova, take center stage in the Big Apple to try and prove why they will be labeled as the team to beat in its respective region to head to the Final Four.
The quarterfinals of the 2018 Big East Tournament get underway today, and for the first time in four years, the Villanova Wildcats, who are all but locks to be a No. 1 in the Big Dance, are not the top seed in the Big East Conference. That honor goes to the Xavier Musketeers, who open up their journey to a first conference tournament title since 2006 when they take on the No. 9 seed, the hometown St. John’s Red Storm. In their last meeting on Jan. 30 in Queens, the Musketeers eked out a 73-68 victory and St. John’s should feel confidence that it could once again keep the game tight long enough against the Musketeers and possibly pull off the monumental upset.
UPDATE: Xavier, helped by scoring 22 points off 11 St’ John’s turnovers, took care of business and pulled away from the Red Storm, 86-60, to advance to the semifinals. Trevon Bluiett led all scorers with 27 points for the Musketeers while Kaiser Gates scored 16 points off the bench, hitting six of his seven shots from the floor. The Red Storm, despite star guard Shamorie Ponds going 1-for-6 from the field and committing eight turnovers in the first 20 minutes that led to 16 Xavier points, were only down 33-29 at intermission. Pinds finished the game with 15 points and Marvin Clark II led the Red Storm with 18 points.
The second game of the afternoon session pits the No. 5 seed Providence and fourth-seeded Creighton, and, with a number of bracket prognosticators claiming that the Friars are still not a lock for the NCAA Tournament, it would behoove Providence to add another Quadrant 1 victory to bolster the résumé. Creighton, finalists in last season’s Big East Tournament, look to make another run in New York City as, regardless of how deep it goes, it will continue to prepare for a likely NCAA Tournament bid.
UPDATE: Providence guard Kyron Cartwright nailed a turnaround jumper with 16 seconds remaining in overtime to lift the Friars to a 72-68 OT victory over the Bluejays. New York City native Alpha Diallo hit a layup with 11 seconds remaining in regulation to force the extra session.
In the first game of the evening session, Villanova will take the floor against No. 7 Marquette, a team that defeated DePaul last night and also need a win against a quality opponent in the worst way to bolster its chances to make the NCAA Tournament. The Golden Eagles eked out a three-point win on Wednesday night against No. 10 DePaul.
UPDATE: The well-oiled Wildcats machine continues to mow down opponents in New York City, as they shot 56.9 percent – including an astounding 68 percent in the second half (19-for-28) – in dispatching the Golden Eagles, 94-70, to move on to the semifinals. Mikal Bridges led Nova with 25 points, and his seven three-pointers (on eight attempts) was one shy of tying the Big East Tournament record for threes made in a single game.
The nightcap is a rematch of a game that occurred just five days ago, and the Seton Hall Pirates, the No. 3 seed, look to complete a three-game sweep of the No. 6 Butler Bulldogs.
As always, our senior photographer, Robert Cole, will be snapping away and taking amazing photos from all of the scintillating action that is sure to take place in The World’s Most Famous Arena on Thursday. Continue to update this page for the latest photos from each of these games.