Big East's Depth on Display As DePaul Beats Seton Hall | Zagsblog
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Saturday / February 24.
  • Big East’s Depth on Display As DePaul Beats Seton Hall

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    NCAA Basketball: DePaul at Seton HallBY JEREMY FUCHS

    NEWARK– The Big East is dead.

    Unless it isn’t.

    The latest NCAA Tournament projection from ESPN’s bracketologist Joe Lunardi has seven Big East teams playing in mid-March: Villanova, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Butler, Providence, Xavier and St. John’s. That’s tied for second amongst leagues, behind only the ACC, with eight. Lunardi has Villanova as a No. 2 seed.

    Seven teams. Not what many expected when the big boys bolted.

    Seton Hall (13-5, 3-3) has struggled of late in Big East play, losing to both Xavier and Butler, and slogged through Thursday against a surprising DePaul, losing 64-60.

    DePaul (11-9, 5-2) scored its first win over a ranked opponent in 51 tries. Their last such win came Jan. 3, 2008 against Villanova, according to ESPN.

    The Blue Demons are now tied atop the Big East at 5-2 with Georgetown and Providence, which beat Xavier Thursday night.

    Seton Hall freshman Angel Delgado had a monster game, with 19 points and a career-high 19 rebounds, but didn’t get enough help from Sterling Gibbs, who scored eight on 2-16 shooting.

    Losing UConn, Louisville and Syracuse to greener pastures has hurt the league. They’ve lost rivalries. They’ve lost that certain national ring to the conference. But they’ve made up for it with remarkable depth. With the exception of Creighton, which is struggling to adjust to life after Doug McDermott and is 0-7 in the conference, every team is capable of making the tournament. There are no gimmes in this league.

    “There’s really no time [for bad games] in the Big East,” said Seton Hall’s Jaren Sina, who shot 2-8 for the floor for six points. “We knew what we we’re getting into.”

    A league in which DePaul is tied for first place does not mean the league is poor. Rather, it demonstrates how wide-open this conference is.  The Blue Demons, with talented players such as Billy Garrett Jr., who scored 13, and Myke Henry, who scored 14, have good wins against Xavier and St. John. The new Big East allows for teams like DePaul to stay in the race, making every game more competitive, more interesting, more important.

    “Every game is going to be more like these types of games,” coach Kevin Willard said. “Everybody knows everybody, all the kids know each other. It’s a very balanced league. You’re going to be in these type of games every night.”

    Seton Hall’s most compelling games have been in the Big East. An overtime thriller against Villanova. A tight back-and-forth against DePaul. A nail-biter against Creighton. And they still have two against Georgetown, two against Providence and Kris Dunn, and still have to travel to Villanova.

    “We got like 12 games left,” Delgado said. “We can’t put our heads down.”

    The star power in this league is tremendous. Gibbs, Isaiah Whitehead and Delgado for the Hall. Daniel Ochefu for Villanova. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera for Georgetown. D’Angelo Harrison for St. John. LaDontae Henton for Providence. Kellen Dunham for Butler.  It may not be a platoon system, but the Big East, despite its losses, has enough pure talent to compete with anyone.

    “Just gotta man up,” said Brandon Mobley, who scored 10 points. “Understand what we have to do as a team to get where we want to get. You can’t coast through walk through, can’t coast through nothing. Every game is going to be decided by one or two possessions.

    The Big East is not made up of many traditional basketball powerhouses. They’re made up of former mid-majors and conference has-beens.

    But with the former powers gone, there is room for new ones to emerge. It may be Seton Hall this year. It may be Providence. It may be DePaul.

    The uncertainty? That’s what makes it great.

    Photo: USA Today Sports

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

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