The last two Big East champions face off on Friday night at Madison Square Garden, looking to punch their ticket to the conference champion game.
‘Nova has, for the most part, rolled through conference play this season, while the Friars have struggled at times despite boasting a roster that includes Big East Player of the Year Kris Dunn.
But could this be the game that changes Providences’ postseason fate? After all, the Wildcats are nursing a slightly injured roster and the one-two Providence punch of Dunn and Ben Bentil has been one of the best in the entire country.
Two teams are taking the court tonight, but only one will be able to battle for a Big East title. This one is going to be good. Here’s all the info you need on the conference semifinal:
Date: Friday, March 11
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Location: Madison Square Garden, New York
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Game Preview: Villanova cannot afford to get ahead of itself.
Sure, the Wildcats are trying to claim the regular-season and conference tournament championship for the second straight year, but nothing is going to come easy at Madison Square Garden, particularly not against an upset-ready Providence squad in the Big East semifinals.
“I know our people are tired of hearing this, we don’t care about the seeds,” ‘Nova coach Jay Wright told ESPN. “We don’t think about the seeds. We really concentrate on enjoying this moment. We really do. I know it sounds corny. It’s just what we do. We love being here right now.
‘Nova and Providence split games in the regular season, winning 72-60 on the road on February 6, sparked by 19 points and 10 rebounds from Darryl Reynolds. Then, on Thursday, the Wildcats rolled to a semifinal berth, connecting on 13 from behind the arc.
Of course, Villanova has always been known for its three-point-shooting tendencies, but the squad has only connected on 27.6 percent from distance in its last three meetings with the Friars.
So, yeah, this one won’t be easy.
The possibility that Daniel Ochefu might be sidelined also makes it rather difficult. The ‘Nova star’s status is uncertain after he reaggrivated an ankle injury in Thursday’s win over Georgetown. If Ochefu can’t go, the ‘Cats will be without their big man in the middle and that’s an absence Providence could certainly take advantage of.