Villanova never had a chance.
Carsen Edwards hit four threes in the first five minutes, finished with nine for the game and poured in 42 points as No. 3-seed Purdue thoroughly embarrassed the No. 6-seed Wildcats, 87-61, on Saturday night in front of a pro-Villanova crowd in Hartford.
Villanova — the reigning national champions and the Big East regular season and tournament champions — trailed 59-24 at one point six minutes into the second half. To put the beatdown into perspective, chew on this: At halftime, Purdue had missed 17 shots, 10 offensive rebounds and nine three-pointers. Put another way, they made more threes in a half of basketball than Villanova grabbed defensive rebounds.
And that was before Purdue opened up the second half with a 16-0 run.
In hindsight, this result should not have come as much of a surprise. Purdue is the higher seeded team. They won a share of the Big Ten title, a league that entered Saturday 7-1 in the NCAA tournament, and their computer numbers told us all season long that this team was one of the nation’s elite even if they didn’t necessarily pass the eye test.
So my bad, KenPom.
I promise never to question you again.
The bigger story here, however, is just how miserable this year’s Big East actually turned out to be.
Villanova won the Big East, but it never felt like they actually were trying to win. They lost five of their last eight regular season games and only managed to take home the league title because Marquette, the only other team in the league that we thought was any good, lost their last four games. That same Marquette team was run out of the first round by Murray State, who looked every bit the part of a mid-major in their loss to Florida State on Saturday.
Villanova beat Seton Hall in the Big East tournament title game, and the Pirates got drubbed by 16 points by Wofford in the first round. The only other Big East team to get into the tournament was St. John’s, and they got smoked in a play-in game by an Arizona State team that proceeded to lose to Buffalo by 17.
I think we can safely say that no one in the Big East was actually all that good.
Big East fans will explain this away by saying that there were no nights off in the league, that anyone could beat anyone on any given night. And that’s true! DePaul, Butler and Providence finished tied for the basement, and they were all 7-11 in conference play. Butler, at 16-17 overall, was the only Big East team to finished the season under .500.
So yes, the league was balanced.
But is that because the teams at the bottom of the conference were that much better, or because Villanova, Marquette and everyone else that were thought were good … weren’t?
At the risk of playing both sides here, the answer is probably all of the above.
But none of that truly matters.
Because facts are facts, and the fact of the matter is that this Villanova blow-out puts to bed what was a disappointing season for the league that churned out two of the last three national champs.