After a lengthy day of action in the quarterfinals, only four teams remain in the BIG EAST Tournament. The Villanova Wildcats, Providence Friars, Xavier Musketeers, and the Seton Hall Pirates all punched their ticket to the semifinals, giving way to all four top seeds in the tourney advancing to the penultimate round for the first time since 2007.
The Friars and Pirates were able to outlast Butler and Creighton respectively thanks to big games from their stars. Ben Bentil stepped up for Providence with a 38-point performance in a 74-60 win for the Friars, while Seton Hall got more of a surprise performance from sophomore Kadeen Carrington as he pitched in 27 to help beat Creighton 81-73.
Meanwhile for the top two seeds in the tournament, it was easy sledding. Both the Wildcats and Musketeers cruised in their quarterfinals as they will likely meet each other in the final of the BIG EAST tournament. 'Nova dispatched Georgetown 81-67 in the first game of the day. Xavier crushed Marquette 90-72 in what was a physical game for both teams.
But now the semifinals are here, and here are five things to look for.
Another big game from Trevon Bluiett?
In what was a key game for Xavier, their best players stepped up, including Trevon Bluiett. The sophomore guard pitched in 24 points to lead all scorers in what turned out to be a blowout win for the Muskies. He was the main source of offense, as no other player scored more than 13 points. He leads the team in scoring this season and is their leader on offense. Xavier needs to be balanced on both ends to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. The X-Men will go as far as Bluiett takes them.
Same goes for Ben Bentil?
Like Bluiett for Xavier, Bentil is the main guy for Providence. Earlier, it was Kris Dunn who was the alpha dog, but Bentil has stolen the spotlight and the title as the best player on Providence. He scored 38 points and hit five 3-pointers in their win against the Butler Bulldogs. Bentil is key to Providence's offense as everything runs through him and Dunn. If either of them are hurt, the Friars struggle. But the pressure is higher on Bentil in this game as he has been the better player for Providence this year.
Point guard battle
The biggest encounter to watch in the Providence vs. Villanova semifinal is the showdown between Kris Dunn and Ryan Arcidiacono. Both players are key players to their teams as the primary ball handlers and main assist guys as well. Dunn should have the upper hand on the offensive end as he is a prolific scorer and can take over games.We saw this multiple times as Dunn was able to help Providence close out games with his ability to create his own shot.
Arcidiacono, meanwhile, is more of "pure" point guard in a sense that he knows how to run the offense and run it well. He does all the little things right and shoots exceptionally well from the free-throw line. Both are kind of opposites in that way and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.
Big defensive battle in second semi-final
The second semifinal will feature two of the best defensive teams in the BIG EAST. Xavier has been the model defensive team for the entire year as they have allowed 70.5 points per game. They also are great on the glass as they average 40.7 rebounds per game, good for 17th highest in the country.
Meanwhile Seton Hall is too shabby as well as they only allow 67.1 points per game.
This will be a slugfest between two physical teams and if you like defense, you will love this game.
Is a Xavier-'Nova championship game going to happen?
For quite some time now we have been talking about a Xavier vs. Villanova final in the BIG EAST Tournament, but will it actually happen?
Yes, both teams are on fire right now and the winner would likely get a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament but don't count the two other teams out.
Providence has shown that they can beat top teams - they beat Arizona earlier in the year - and with Bentil and Dunn, anything can happen. If both of them have big games then we could possibly see the Friars in the final.
Seton Hall also poses a threat too as they have gotten wins over top teams like Wichita State and even Providence and Xavier already.
The Pirates have the formula to beat the X again, now they have to execute the plan again.