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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, 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, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Tourney champion Louisville is face of changing Big East

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NEW YORK–Welcome to the future of the Big East.

For the first time in the history of the conference, the tournament title game featured two teams who were not members of the league at the time of its formation, and this is what we got.

In front of a crowd that was at less than capacity at Madison Square Garden, Louisville took control early and beat fourth-seeded Cincinnati, 50-44, to win the Big East tournament title on Saturday night in New York City.

“[The championship] is special because I love coaching these guys,” said Louisville coach Rick Pitino. “We’ve got a great group. You saw how much enthusiasm they had for winning that championship. It means so much to them to win.”

Chris Smith led Louisville in scoring with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Kyle Kuric added 13 points.

But, man, it wasn’t pretty.

In a tournament that has seen slow, grinding games from USF, Villanova, and Louisville before, the title game followed suit.

The Cardinals shot just 35% from the floor and had 14 turnovers. They mustered just 50 points.

Of course, credit is due to their defense, which kept Cincinnati to 44 points and 3-of-14 shooting from beyond the arc. Center Gorgui Dieng had three blocks and continued to anchor the middle of the Cardinal defense.

“We knew it was going to take defense to win this game,” said Pitino. “We thought it was going to take offense to beat Marquette, we thought it was going to take defense to win this one.”

Point guard Peyton Siva won the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award, answering the questions of his early-season critics.

“You could tell he stepped into the role we needed him to play,” said Kuric. “The Peyton that we’re all used to, you could tell he didn’t want to lose and he wasn’t going to let us lose.”

Louisville has gained momentum in this tournament, but with such difficulties shooting the ball, it’s hard to say how far Louisville can go in the NCAA’s, now that they have punched their automatic ticket.

Will we see the team that shot 56% from the floor in Friday night’s big win over Notre Dame, or will the sluggish offense of Saturday night prevail?

But this game speaks to a larger point, less related to the actual performance of these two teams tonight, and more to the direction of the league.

This is not an isolated incident. This is the future.

With Syracuse and Pitt bolting for the ACC, and the suggestion that they could leave even earlier than expected, the complexion of the league is changing.

“I’m a traditionalist, and I’m very disappointed that teams are leaving, certainly,” said Pitino. “That’s the worst thing about [college basketball] culture: The gratification is so short, and the way they handle failure is so short…Everybody wants change nowadays. Let’s go to this league…It’s bizarre how everybody just leaves.”

Syracuse has historically owned Madison Square Garden; it’s almost the Carrier Dome South. But cut out the Orange and add Conference-USA transplants, and you’re left with the scene we saw on Saturday night.

To be clear, no one here is lamenting the death of a power conference. Far from it.

Cincinnati and Louisville are strong national programs. The Big East is adding more quality schools in Memphis, Temple, and others, but the variable that changes is that intangible, difficult-to-quantify feel.

Villanova coach Jay Wright described it earlier in the year: that feeling of taking his team on a bus and heading up the New Jersey Turnpike to play at Madison Square Garden.

With expansion, that may be lost.

In a game that was close throughout on Saturday night, there was less than a handful of “loud” moments and never a time that was truly deafening in the Garden. A nationally televised championship game for a conference that will send the most teams to the NCAA tournament and I could hear myself think throughout.

The Big East still retains some of its Northeast, old school, blue-collar swagger. Villanova is still here. Georgetown is a mainstay. Providence, St. John’s, and Rutgers are programs on the rise. But how would a Memphis-Marquette Big East final look, somewhere down the line? Does that pack the Garden? Does that have the same glow on the marquee as Georgetown-Syracuse?

It’s a transition in changing times. It’s an inevitable shift in the increasingly nationalized business of college sports. It becomes clearer as the realignment dust settles.

Oh, and in case you forgot, Louisville is headed to the NCAA tournament.

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

Louisville upsets No. 9 Marquette, so can we trust them?

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NEW YORK–Louisville would have had to pull an upset on Thursday night if they wanted people to talk about something other than their new electric-orange uniforms.

And they did.

Rick Pitino’s Cardinals never trailed against No. 9 Marquette at Madison Square Garden, on their way to an 84-71 victory in New York City.

“I thought the guys did a tremendous job of pushing the pace tonight, getting a lot of easy baskets,” said Pitino. “They maintained their poise…Real proud of the guys.”

The backcourt combo of Kyle Kuric and Peyton Siva led the way, combining for 38 points. Siva also had eight rebounds and six assists.

Louisville is beginning to show itself as a team that, though dangerous, is difficult to weigh for anyone trying to fill out a bracket.

Looking at the Cardinals defensively, the effort on Thursday night was impressive, especially considering the circumstances.

After chasing down a loose ball with close to eight minutes left in the first half, center Gorgui Dieng was whistled for a foul. He then had two. In displeasure, he slammed the ball on the ground and was called for a technical. Though questionable, perhaps, that gave Dieng three fouls.

The Cardinals were forced to play without one of the best shotblockers in the conference until almost midway through the second half, but they were able to manage.

“When Gorgui went out of the game, [forward Jared Swopshire] gave us a big lift….We didn’t lose a whole lot,” said Pitino. “We got a chance to rest Gorgui in unusual conditions.”

Credit that to their ability to force turnovers, with the Golden Eagles committing a near-Big East tournament record 26 on Thursday night.

“They haven’t had a better meal all season than what we served them tonight,” said Marquette coach Buzz Williams. “Seemed like we just kept passing the mic at a karaoke bar, ‘I’m not sure of the words, you try.'”

Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder was never able to get things going offensively, either, finishing with 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting.

“Me and Chane [Behanan] talked about it when I subbed in that we wanted to keep him from getting touches, especially in the paint,” said Swopshire. “So I feel like we were able to do that.”

But the offensive end might be where frustration happens most when evaluating Pitino’s team.

After shooting 39% from the floor in Wednesday night’s win over Seton Hall, the Cardinals shot 48% and posted 50 points in the first half against Marquette.

Then it was back to their old ways in the second half, shooting below 30% and looking more like they were burning the last 20 minutes than keeping their foot on the pedal.

Which team will we see the rest of the season? If you’re going to pick the Cardinals to make a run in the NCAA tournament, it could be nerve-wracking to watch.

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

March in bloom: Cincinnati tops No. 13 Georgetown in 2 OTs

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NEW YORK–It didn’t go to six overtimes like we’ve seen before at Madison Square Garden, but Cincinnati’s double-overtime win over No. 13 Georgetown on Thursday afternoon reaffirmed one thing: March is in full swing.

After a layup by Georgetown’s Henry Sims tied the game with 28 seconds remaining in the second overtime, Cashmere Wright drove the lane with six seconds left and kissed a floater off the glass, giving the Bearcats a 72-70 win.

Yancy Gates led the way for Cincinnati with 23 points on 10-of-19 shooting and added eight rebounds.

“You know, one thing–it’s like a proud parent,” said Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin of his senior. “You’ve got a guy like him doing that, then it gives you some options. Our offense changed once he started finishing.”

This game will be remembered as a battle between Gates and Sims, who finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds of his own. A main point, though, was Cincinnati’s ability to force Georgetown turnovers. The Hoyas had 14 on the afternoon.

A big poke-away by Gates at the end of regulation preserved a chance for the Bearcats to win in overtime.

“That was one of the first things [Cronin] mentioned coming down the stretch, how we were able to [force turnovers] in their gym, to be at a neutral site, we could do it again,” said Gates. “I think that kind of gave us the confidence and the energy to go out there and make it happen.”

The Bearcats overcame an 11-point deficit in regulation and went on a 16-3 run down the stretch to force overtime.

“You tak about effort and attitude and togetherness and playing hard and defending and rebounding and hanging in there,” said Cronin. “There’s never a better example of that than today with the situation.”

The game doesn’t have dramatic implications as far as the NCAA tournament goes, but Cincinnati now advances to get a shot at No. 2 Syracuse in the Big East tournament semifinals, after the Orange beat Connecticut earlier on Thursday afternoon.

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