There was a lot of chatter entering this college basketball season that Big East basketball, and thus, the sport itself, would never be the same when the Big East split apart, the AAC was created and two traditional Big East powers — Syracuse and Pittsburgh — left for the ACC. But in reality, Saturday night showed that the more things change, the more they stay the same. After all, it was one of the traditional nine Big East schools that conquered the Big East tournament, as the Providence Friars upset Creighton, 65-58. It’s the first Big East tournament championship for the Friars in 20 years, and it locks up what had seemed to be an unlikely NCAA tournament berth for Providence, stealing a potential spot away from all those teams on Bubble Watch.
Bryce Cotton led Providence with 23 points. LaDontae Henton grabbed 13 rebounds. Even though Creighton super senior Doug McDermott ended up getting his points with 27, only teammate Avery Dingman managed to also get into double figures (10) and Providence fought off every Bluejays run in the second half to capture the title. This was not a result that anyone saw coming, but it had to be pleasing to old-school Big East fans and experts, to see one of the remaining “original nine” take the title. Not that Providence is worried about nostalgia. The Friars probably had to win the Big East title to get into the NCAA tournament. The Big East tournament had seemed more about a coronation for McDermott, but instead it turned into a heart-warming story for true Big East fans everywhere.
It also turned into a nightmare for teams on Bubble Watch. Teams like Florida State and Arkansas, which exited their respective conference tournaments early, were counting on the top seeds winning all the big tournaments so that no teams out of contention for at-large bids would “steal” a spot in the tournament. While Creighton wasn’t the top seed in the Big East (Villanova), the Bluejays were going to the NCAA tournament anyway and them winning presented no danger to the Bubble Watch teams.
Providence, on the other hand, is a nightmare scenario for all the Bubble Watch teams, as now one less at-large bid is in play for the NCAA tournament selection committee to decide upon Sunday. For the Friars, meanwhile, winning the Big East Tournament is a dream come true, 20 years in the making.