For the first time in the new Big East Tournament, a midwestern team will win the championship. Marquette and Xavier will battle it out on Saturday night.
In game one of the Big East Tournament semifinals, Marquette survived UConn, winning 70-68. It’s the first time Marquette will play in the championship game since they joined the conference in 2006.
The second game went Xavier’s way, as the Musketeers continue to surprise and prove people wrong, playing great without Zach Freemantle. It’s Xavier’s second appearance in the Big East championship game after making it in 2015.
Takeaway #1: David Joplin saves the day
Despite having 4 fouls, David Joplin came off the bench and provided a major spark, going 4-for-5 from three-point range for 17 points. It’s the first time the sophomore hit double-digits in points since a 28-point game on Jan. 28 against DePaul.
If Joplin can regularly make that much of an impact offensively, it takes Marquette to a new level. When Joplin scores at least 10 points, the Golden Eagles are 6-3.
But more importantly, Joplin’s offense came at a big time, when some of the usual scorers were also limited with foul trouble and Shaka Smart’s rotation had to be tweaked.
In another note, Marquette’s defense rattled some of UConn’s best scoring options. Jordan Hawkins, who averages over 16 PPG shot just 2-for-11 from the field. Tristen Newton wasn’t much better, going 2-for-10.
A poor shooting night for the Huskies coupled with a big day for Joplin sends the “owners” of Madison Square Garden home a whole game early.
“This is our place. We own MSG.” – Dan Hurley
He and Jordan Hawkins joined me last night on Shootaround:
— John Fanta (@John_Fanta) March 10, 2023
Takeaway #2: Rebounds matter
Xavier had no trouble beating Creighton, doing so by 22 points. And one look at the box score will tell you why. The Musketeers commanded the glass, grabbing 45 to the Bluejays 27.
The second-best rebounding team in the Big East Conference, Xavier showed put on a clinic against a Creighton team that isn’t too far behind in that department.
And yet again, Xavier is doing this without Zach Freemantle. On Thursday night, they impressed by scoring 89 points without one of their top scorers. On Friday night, 82 points were scored, but it was the rebounding margin – without their LEADING REBOUNDER – that turned heads.
Freemantle was a major part of Xavier’s season, but an injury cost him the rest of the season. It hasn’t mattered. Xavier is just clicking and apparently whoever they put on the court will get the job done. They’ll try and do it again on Saturday in the Big East Tournament championship game.
1. Marquette will face 2. Xavier on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. on FOX.