If the Wednesday of the Big East tournament, which had ballooned in importance as the conference grew over the past decade, has been deflated to the point of featuring just two games with only one NCAA tourney contender between them, at least it still offered some close - if not always pretty - contests. The first championship of the conference's post-split, basketball-only era kicked off with a pair of tight night games at MSG that served as appetizer for Thursday's day-long quadruple-header.
DePaul 60, Georgetown 56: Here lay the Hoyas' tourney hopes. Georgetown entered Wednesday firmly on the bubble, having gone 17-14 in the regular season while playing the nation's 11th hardest schedule. With last-place DePaul as their opening round opponent, a chance to burnish their resumes in a second-round matchup with Creighton was widely expected. But the Blue Demons, who had lost to Georgetown by seven and 12 in their two regular-season meetings, refused to play their part, beating the Hoyas for the first time since 1994. Point guard Billy Garrett Jr. showed why he was tabbed the conference's top rookie, leading DePaul with 17 points, including a nifty floater in traffic as the shot clock expired to put the Blue Demons up eight with just under four to play. More surprising was the output of sophomore forward Forrest Robinson, who had scored just 67 points in 20 games before hitting four of five threes for a career-high 14 on Wednesday. But one of DePaul's key plays came from a player who had an off night. With his team up by three and 31 seconds to go, Durrell McDonald missed a three from the wing in the shot clock's dying seconds. But McDonald was able to pull in the long rebound that bounced his way, retaining possession and leading to an exchange of free throws and layups that arrived at the final score.
DePaul's reward is a 7 p.m. tipoff with new SI coverboy Doug McDermott and Creighton on Thursday. What's next for Georgetown? The NIT, almost certainly. And suggestions are already coming in for their first round opponent...Seton Hall 51, Butler 50:
Leading by 13 with less than 10 minutes left, the Pirates
seemed ready to sail smoothly into the quarterfinals. But the Bulldogs
-- who beat Seton Hall by 17 on Saturday -- rallied to make it close in the final minutes, thanks in large part to an inspired 22-point, seven-rebound effort from senior Khyle Marshall
, who seemed intent not to let this game be his last. Sophomore Kellen Dunham
, who combined with fellow guard Alex Barlow
for just seven points on 3-of-21 shooting, nearly redeemed his off night with the steal of an inbound pass and dunk that cut Butler's deficit to one with 47 seconds to play. The next time down the floor, however, Dunham could not follow up with another highlight, as his bounce pass in the lane was picked off by Seton Hall guard and Big East defensive player of the year Fuquan Edwin
. After the Pirates' Brandon Mobley
missed a free throw on the other end, Barlow's halfcourt prayer at the buzzer went unanswered, and the Bulldogs' season came to an end. Seton Hall, which got a double-double from flu-addled big man Gene Teague, got its season record to .500 and survived to earn a noon date with top-seeded Villanova, which beat the Pirates by 17 and 16 points in their two meetings this season.