Jay Wright

Jay Wright: the Catholic 7 could be ‘best basketball conference’

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The big news over the weekend was that the Catholic 7 — Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Providence and DePaul — made the official announcement that they would be leaving the Big East.

It’s a crushing blow for folks that grew up on college hoops in the Northeast, but it’s something that we all saw coming miles away.

There are still plenty of legalities and logistics (someone call UPS!) to work out regarding the future of these seven schools — and of the programs that will be scooped up in an effort to get to ten or twelve teams — but the one thing that I thought we all could agree upon is that college hoops will forever be different in Big East country. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, and this league isn’t destined to become the next Patriot League, but it certainly isn’t on par with what the Big East was as recently as 2009 (when they got three No. 1 seeds) or 2011 (when 11 teams made the tournament).

Apparently, no one told Jay Wright.

“I think it could be the best basketball conference in the country,” Wright told CSN Philly. “If you look at, top to bottom, who had got the best teams top to bottom, it could be the best.”

C’mon, bro.

I understand coachspeak and spin and all that, but there is simply no way that Jay Wright truly believes what he just said.

In the not-so-distant future, his Villanova program is headed for a conference where the majority of the progams — St. John’s, Seton Hall, Providence and DePaul — haven’t been relevant for at least a decade, maybe more. His Villanova team has been on a downswing since somewhere around January 2010, and losing the affiliation with the Big East isn’t exactly going to make Andrew Wiggins want to put the Wildcats on his list.

There are two healthy programs currently associated with the Catholic 7: Georgetown and Marquette. Marquette isn’t currently ranked in the top 25 and Georgetown had a three game stretch this season where they averaged 48.3 points.

That’s better than the ACC, which will eventually includes Duke, UNC, Syracuse and Louisville, among many other? Or the Big Ten, where Michigan State is a top 15 team and the sixth-best team in the league? That group may not even be a top eight conference, not with how strong the MWC, the WCC and the MVC are.

The reason that the Catholic 7 are targeting programs like Butler, Xavier, Creighton and VCU has less to do with filling out a full conference roster than it does adding quality programs to remain relevant nationally.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

No. 5 Xavier stumbles at Creighton, lose 70-54

Creighton's Cole Huff (13) and Toby Hegner, left, guard Xavier's Jalen Reynolds (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Mo Watson went for a career-high 32 points, seven boards and five assists as Creighton jumped out to an early 21-4 lead and never looked back, beating No. 5 Xavier, 70-54, in Omaha on Tuesday night.

 

It was a massive win for the Bluejays, who still have an outside shot at earning an at-large bid this season. (We wrote all about that here.)

As well as Creighton played, the bigger story here may actually be Xavier, who lost for just the third time this season; they had been the only top ten team with just two losses to their name.

The issue for the Musketeers tonight was two-fold, but they both are a symptom of what could be an issue down the road for this team: Xavier doesn’t really have a true point guard.

They certainly didn’t have anyone to stop Watson. By the second half, they had essentially asked Reynolds, who was playing the middle of their 1-3-1 zone to matchup with Watson. It was weird but was actually somewhat effective.

The Musketeers also started out ice cold from the floor, missing 11 of their first 13 shots, and those misses led to leak outs from Bluejays, who got layups and open threes in transition to build that 17 point lead. Once Xavier got behind, it turned into scramble mode for Xavier. They forced shots early in the clock and didn’t start pounding the ball into the paint until it was too late. What they needed was someone to be able to settle things, to ensure that offensive would get initiated and sets would get executed when they were able to get the lead down to single digits.

That 1-for-19 shooting performance from beyond the arc certainly didn’t help matters, and neither did the fact that they got just nine field goals all game from players not named James Farr or Jalen Reynolds. The most frustrating part for head coach Chris Mack? They had good shots. It wasn’t like Creighton took away everything that Xavier wanted to do.

The kids just had one of those nights where nothing went down.

Those happen.

And when you combine them with a total inability to contain the opposing team’s point guard, what you get is a 16 point loss on the road against a team that was desperate to get a good win.

Gill’s 16, ‘D’ lead No. 7 Virginia past Virginia Tech, 67-49

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Anthony Gill scored 16 points and No. 7 Virginia turned the tables on state rival Virginia Tech with a 67-49 victory Tuesday night, the Cavaliers’ seventh straight.

Isaiah Wilkins added a career-best 14 points and Malcolm Brogdon had 12 for the Cavaliers (20-4, 9-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). Virginia avenged a 70-68 loss to the Hokies in Blacksburg on Jan. 4 in what rates as their worst performance of the season, and extended their winning streak at John Paul Jones Arena to 17 games.

Freshman Justin Robinson scored 16 points and classmate Chris Clarke had 11 in his first action for the Hokies (13-12, 5-7) since breaking his right foot in late December. Virginia Tech’s top two scorers, Zach LeDay (16.0 ppg) and Seth Allen (14.5), were limited to seven and six points, respectively, in part because of foul trouble.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said his team wasn’t ready to play when it lost to the Hokies earlier, but they have been surging of late and were focused from the outset. They were credited with assists and 14 of their first 15 baskets and forced 10 turnovers in the first half; they forced just eight in the last meeting of the teams.

For most of the game, the Hokies had more turnovers than field goals.

The Cavaliers led 32-20 at halftime and extended their advantage to 47-29 on a three-point play by Mike Tobey with 12:11 remaining. It capped an 11-4 run for Virginia, during which LeDay was whistled for his fourth foul. On Virginia’s next trip down court, it got the ball to Gill inside and LeDay basically backed off and let him score, quickly earning a spot on the bench.

The Cavaliers’ lead never dipped into single digits again.

The Hokies had just eight turnovers and outscored Virginia 26-6 off turnovers in their first meeting. This time, Virginia Tech had 10 turnovers by halftime and the Cavaliers had already turned them into 15 points. Virginia Tech finished with 16 field goals and 15 turnovers.

Already leading 9-6, Virginia got scoring from eight players in a 23-8 run that spanned about 8 1/2 minutes.

Gill started it with a dunk, Brogdon hit a 3-pointer, London Perrantes had a four-point play and Wilkins finished it with two free throws, giving the Cavaliers a 32-14 lead with 2:06 left in the half. They didn’t score again, and the Hokies closed within 32-20 by halftime.

TIP-INS

Virginia Tech: The Hokies shot 57.1 percent (15 of 26) from the field in the second half of their 70-68 victory against Virginia on Jan. 4. … Virginia Tech’s starting five totaled four points in the first half.

Virginia: The Cavaliers have held four consecutive opponents to 50 points or fewer.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech plays at No. 12 Miami next Wednesday.

Virginia plays at Duke on Saturday.

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The AP’s college basketball page: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org