Seton Hall fuels NCAA Tournament bid with win over Villanova; Wildcats earn Big East title after Marquette loss | Zagsblog
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Sunday / May 19.
  • Seton Hall fuels NCAA Tournament bid with win over Villanova; Wildcats earn Big East title after Marquette loss

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    NEWARK — Before a sold-out crowd at the Prudential Center on Saturday afternoon, Seton Hall added fuel to its NCAA Tournament bid and crashed a rival’s celebration party.

    The Pirates beat No. 23 Villanova, 79-75, to add to their NCAA Tournament resume and momentarily prevented Villanova from winning their fifth outright Big East regular-season title in six years. The Wildcats did win the Big East crown several hours later when Marquette failed to take care of business at home and lost to Georgetown, 86-84.

    Seton Hall is now all but assured of heading to its fourth straight NCAA Tournament under coach Kevin Willard.

    “Amazing,” said junior guard Myles Powell, who had 20 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. “I have no words right now. I want to call the seniors [from last year], I told them I was going to hold it down for them. I knew what it would take and we played with our hearts today.”

    Seton Hall (18-12, 9-9), which entered the day as a 10 seed according to Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com, now has wins over Kentucky (at MSG), Maryland (on the road) and Marquette and Villanova (both at home) this week.

    Powell feels the Pirates can do some damage in the Big Dance.

    “I mean, if we’re playing Seton Hall basketball, we can play with anybody in the country and we proved that tonight,” he said. “We beat two ranked teams [this week in Marquette and Villanova], we beat Kentucky, we beat Maryland, I mean the list goes on. We can play with anybody in the country.”

    The Big East is likely looking at getting four teams into the Big Dance with Marquette, Villanova, St. John’s and Seton Hall dancing.

    “They’ve proven it,” Wright said of Seton Hall. “They’ve beaten Kentucky, they’ve beaten Maryland, they’ve beaten Marquette, they can beat anybody. If they get in they’re going to do some damage. They should be in, as far as I’m concerned.”

    As for the Big East standings, Villanova (22-9, 13-5) will be the No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament with Marquette at No. 3. If St. John’s win at Xavier, they would finish as the No. 3 seed. Seton Hall could be the 3 or the 4. The Big East Tournament begins Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

    “It would be nice to be the top seed because you play at noon,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “I’m mostly concerned with how we’re playing right now. We don’t want to be in a bad stretch right now. We gotta get ourselves right.”

    Willard, meantime, said his team’s focus is trying to go deep next week at the Garden.

    “Every chance you have to play in the Big East tournament is special,” he said. “One hundred percent of our focus now is to win a Big East championship.”

    Myles Cale had 19 points for Seton Hall, which took a 39-28 halftime lead. Freshman Jared Rhoden had a career-best 15 points and Sandro Mamukelashvili 12 points and 18 rebounds.

    “They jumped us early and it took us until the second half to get going and that was pretty disappointing,” Wright said. “We started competing in the second half and it just wasn’t enough.”

    Cale hit a huge 3-pointer with under a minute left to put the Pirates up 73-68.

    On Senior Day, Mike Nzei (10 points) was honored before the game and hit two foul shots with 25.7 seconds left to make it 77-71.

    “He does not get enough credit,” Willard said of Nzei. “He’s just as big as Isaiah [Whitehead], Desi [Rodriguez], Khadeen [Carrington], Ish [Sanogo]. He’s a guy that takes a lot of pride in how he does things and what this program means. He’s done a phenomenal job of passing the baton on to this next group.”

    After a 3-pointer by Saddiq Bey, Shavar Reynolds made 1-of-2 to make it 78-74

    Collin Gillespie led Villanova with 22 points, Phil Booth had 16, Eric Paschall 14 and Bey 13.

    “I think they were playing with great confidence coming off the Marquette game,” Wright said. “They looked really dialed in, really efficient and we were not.”

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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.