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Big East Tournament: Providence knocks off St. John’s despite mediocre outing from Bryce Cotton

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As Providence entered Thursday’s Big East quarterfinal game against St. John’s, the Friars were probably counting on senior guard Bryce Cotton to come through in the clutch in what basically amounted to an NCAA Tournament play-in game.

But with both bubble teams in a back-and-forth battle, No. 4 seed Providence was still able to come out on top, despite only one made field goal from its All-American, as the Friars held off the No. 5 seed Red Storm, 79-74, at Madison Square Garden.

RELATED: Is your team in the field of 68? Check our latest Bracketology

Cotton only finished with 12 points on 1-for-9 shooting from the field, but his Providence teammates stepped up in a big way against St. John’s. Sophomore guard Josh Fortune paced the Friars with 24 points while junior forward LaDontae Henton (16 points, 11 rebounds) and senior forward Kadeem Batts (13 points, 12 rebounds) both finished with double-doubles.

Providence (21-11) only played six players in the contest on Thursday but also had double-digit rebounds from forward Tyler Harris (six points, 10 rebounds) and reserve forward Carson Derosiers (eight points, 10 rebounds). All six of Providence’s players that played on Thursday had either double-digit points or rebounds and the balanced team contribution helped offset the off-day from Cotton, who usually averages 21 points a game.

St. John’s (20-12) cut the Providence lead to 69-68 with 43 seconds remaining, but the Friars won possession on a held ball and Cotton buried two free throws on the ensuing possession to help put the game away. The Red Storm mounted a furious comeback, as they trailed 63-48 with 6:07 remaining, but ultimately fell short as they’re likely headed for the NIT. D’Angelo Harrison led St. John’s with 24 points on the afternoon while Rysheed Jordan (17 points) and Jakarr Sampson (15 points) also finished in double-figures.

RELATED: Get to know all of the NCAA Tournament’s automatic bids here.

Providence led the entire second half and now the No. 4 seed Friars will meet the No. 8 seed Seton Hall in the Big East quarterfinals on Friday night at 7:00 p.m.

2013 Big East Tournament Preview

Big East

UPDATED 11 March 2013, 11:21 p.m. ET

We’ve seen signs of the dissolving Big East as we know it, celebrated its triumphs, and eulogized its ending for much of the 2012-13 season. This week in New York City, though, it will come to a conclusion with the last conference tournament for the Big East as it was. With such parity in this field, there is also the chance that it could be one of the best tournaments, prone to upsets and full of dramatics that we’ve become accustomed to in this conference for over 30 years. Check out a preview below:

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

The Bracket

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, N.Y.

When: March 12-16

Final: March 16, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Favorite: Georgetown

After losing to South Florida on Jan. 19, Georgetown has won 12 of its last 13 games and is one of the more dangerous teams in the conference. The Hoyas lost second-leading scorer Greg Whittington earlier in the season, but have not missed a beat. That is mostly because of the increased production of likely conference player of the year Otto Porter, as well as guards Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. The biggest possible stumbling block for the Hoyas will be offensively, making sure they are able to keep the offense flowing and avoid big slumps like they fell victim to early in the season.

And if they lose? Louisville

Three straight losses early in the Big East season had critics writing Louisville off. Since late January, though, the Cardinals have won ten of their last 11 games, with the only loss coming in a five-overtime thriller on the road to Notre Dame. Guard Russ Smith has scored in double figures in all but one of those games, but the key will be how well his backcourt mate Peyton Siva plays. Last season, Siva’s emergence in the postseason is what helped Louisville to the Final Four. Can he do it again?

Sleeper: Marquette

Coach Buzz Williams and his Marquette team quietly crept into the Top 25 this season and up to the top of the Big East to grab a share of the conference title. The Golden Eagles have adapted to personnel changes year-to-year and Vander Blue is proving that he can be a No. 1 scoring option for this team. Marquette does not rebound or score the ball at a particularly high rate, but they play solid defense and shoot efficiently from the field.

Other Studs:

– Jack Cooley, Notre Dame

Cooley has been a double-double machine for the Irish this season and the anchor in the middle of the lane that complements the strong backcourt of Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins. The more involved Cooley is, the better off the Irish will be in New York.

– Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse

Carter-Williams has been the biggest breakout star in the conference this season and is the facilitator that makes Syracuse go. Unfortunately, the Orange are in a skid and have lost four of their last five games. Granted, four of those fives games have been against ranked teams, but that is what a schedule in March can be, especially in a single-elimination tournament.

– Bryce Cotton, Providence

The Big East’s scoring leader is part of a sneaky Providence teams that many higher seeds likely don’t want to face. Along with Vincent Council in the Friar backcourt, coach Ed Cooley and Providence could surprise some teams at MSG.

CBT Prediction: Villanova beats St. John’s in its Wednesday matchup with St. John’s, then upsets Louisville in the quarterfinal. By then, the Wildcats will have fully solidified their spot in the NCAA tournament.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden already sold out

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The 2013 Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York City is sold out, the conference announced Friday.

The annual tournament has now sold out in presale for the eighth consecutive season, according to a press release, and tickets are now only available for purchase from other fans through direct sale or ticket exchanges.

News of the sell out comes as little surprise, not only because of sales numbers in previous years, but because this year’s Big East Tournament is likely to be the last for the conference as we know it. After this season, Pittsburgh and Syracuse will depart for the ACC and a host of Conference USA schools will join the Big East, including Houston, SMU, Memphis, and UCF.

That still fails to mention the status of Notre Dame and the Catholic 7, the former having announced it would also be headed to the ACC, and the latter announcing its desire to split from the conference. The departure of the Catholic 7 effectively removes the core of teams that originally formed the conference.

Louisville defeated Cincinnati in last year’s Big East Tournament title game. The 2012 title game marked the first time that neither participant was a not member of the original Big East. Louisville went on to make a run to the Final Four in New Orleans.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_