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Big East Championship: How We Got Here

The road to the Big East title comes to a close. Let’s reflect on how Villanova and Creighton have made it to the biggest stage.

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-Villanova vs Connecticut Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

At 6:30pm ET the final game of the week at Madison Square Garden will be played. Although 11 teams played in the arena, only 2 were able to make it to this special night. Those 2 teams? #4 Creighton and #2 Villanova. It took one team a 17 point comeback effort and another close game, while the other had smooth sailing. No, Villanova did not blow teams out.

#4 Creighton:

Let’s start with the Bluejays. After finishing 4th in the Big East, Creighton locked itself into the 4/5 game against Marquette. Despite being 0-2 against the Bluejays, it still seemed like Marquette would be able to get over the hump and pull off the win. What made this thought even more prevalent was that Creighton was without its star freshman Ryan Nembhard. Without Nembhard, the Bluejays were 1-2.

But, we quickly say that was no problem in this game. After a close first half, Creighton was able to pull away in the second, including staving off a late Marquette comeback attempt.

Then, in the semifinals against the regular season champ Providence, the game was never close. The Bluejays completely dismantled the top seeded Friars by 27 points.

Creighton’s most outstanding player in this tournament so far has been center Ryan Kalkbrenner. After winning Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Kalkbrenner has averaged 14.5 ppg, 9.0 reb/g, and 3 blk/g.

#2 Villanova:

The Wildcats have been the top dogs in the Big East since the realignment. In this tournament run, it has been no different. Despite being the 2 seed, the Wildcats had swept 1 seed Providence and finished the regular season 16-4.

Although Villanova has been elite at MSG, the quarterfinals were anything but a cakewalk. With 15:37 remaining, the Wildcats found themselves down 17 points, before storming back and taking a 1 point lead off of 2 Brandon Slater free throws with 2 seconds left. St. John’s’ buzzer beating attempt would miss, and Nova moved on.

In the semis, Villanova played a much better game. With it feeling like a home crowd for UConn, the Wildcats completely controlled the matchup, especially in the second half. Leading by 7 with less than 4.5 minutes remaining, a Brandon Slater block would give Nova all the momentum needed to close the Huskies out.

Villanova’s most outstanding player in this tournament so far has been forward Brandon Slater. One of the most improved players in the Big East this year has averaged 11.0 ppg and 4.0 reb/g, including many key defensive plays.

Now, all that’s left to do is crown a champion!