By Luke Sweeney ’24
The 2020-2021 NCAA basketball season has been one to remember, for all the wrong reasons. Having to adapt to the many new rules and regulations in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic, teams of every conference had a lot more to deal with than the regular stresses of an NCAA season.
Coach Ed Cooley and the Providence College Friars had a less than satisfying end to the regular season after finishing 13-13 and failing to make the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament. Getting a favorable matchup in the first round of the Big East tournament looked like a blessing for the Friars, but they were unable to capitalize as they lost to a 5-14 DePaul University Demons. In extremely rare form, coach Cooley stormed off the floor without addressing either team after this embarrassing loss, officially ending the Friars’ season.
With the 2021 March Madness Selection Sunday happening this past week, the NCAA granted four teams from the Big East a spot in the big dance. Villanova University finished the Big East tournament with a 16-6 record on the year after a loss on March 11 to a storied Georgetown University Hoyas, coached by the legendary New York Knick, Patrick Ewing. Villanova has played the month of March so far without their star point guard, Collin Gillespie, who had a season-ending knee injury.
The Wildcats have looked to other leaders on the team to carry Gillespie’s load, such as senior Jermaine Samuels Jr., who the team will continue to give bigger roles during the NCAA tournament. Villanova received a No. 5 seed and looks forward to playing the No. 12 seed Winthrop University Eagles in the first round on March 19.
Creighton University represents the Big East in the western side of the bracket at the No. 5 seed and is lined up to face off against University of California, Santa Barbara on March 20. Many are deeming this a trap game for the favored Bluejays as UCSB is hot off a Big West championship win over University of California, Irvine last Saturday. Santa Barbara finished the regular season 22-4 and were led by 6-foot-4-inch senior guard JaQuori McLaughlin, who put up 22 points against Irvine.
This could be a potential upset due to Creighton coming off a devastating loss to Georgetown in the Big East championship last weekend. Hopefully their lack of momentum will not lead to the loss of their season in the first round of the tournament.
The biggest story coming out of the Big East this week is Georgetown, who defied the odds by beating a favored 20-8 Creighton team at Madison Square Garden. The Hoyas had a less than perfect season before the Big East tournament, finishing 12-12 and landing at the bottom half of the Big East rankings. Their miraculous run at MSG was headed by Coach Patrick Ewing. The No. 12 seed Hoyas will have a tough road ahead of them in the tournament, starting with No. 5 seed Colorado University on March 20.
The fourth team invited to the NCAA tournament from the Big East this year is the University of Connecticut, headed by sophomore James Bouknight who had been injured for almost half of the regular season. With Bouknight looking healthy heading into the first round of the tournament, the Huskies hope to dominate the University of Maryland in all aspects of the game on March 20.
Each team’s guards match up well against each other, so we should be expecting a deep-ranged shootout to decide the winner.
While it was not the dominating Big East that we are used to seeing this year, Villanova, Creighton, UConn, and Georgetown hope to make their mark on the 2020-2021 NCAA basketball season by advancing into the later rounds of the big dance. Both at the No. 5 seed, Villanova and Creighton are two teams to watch out for.