Villanova looked like anything but a championship-caliber squad during a loss at Butler on Sunday, but the No. 10 Wildcats rebounded with a 72-60 win over No. 14 Creighton on Wednesday to claim the Big East’s regular season title. It’s the seventh time in the last eight years that Villanova have won at least a share of the league, though this title came with a price. Star guard Collin Gillespie was lost in the first half to a knee injury that coach Jay Wright described as “serious” after the game.
The league title may come with a bit of an asterisk in the minds of some detractors. The caveat is that the Wildcats (16-4, 11-3 Big East) are on track to play just 15 league games this season. By contrast, Creighton (17-7, 13-6) will complete a full slate of 20 Big East games if Saturday’s regular-season finale against Butler is played as scheduled. But the league decided to use winning percentage as the determining factor in crowning a champion.
Even if Villanova loses in its regular season finale at Providence on Saturday and Creighton beats Butler, the Wildcats will still finish the regular season with a better winning percentage. The Wildcats and Bluejays could still meet again in the Big East title game, though, which would give them an opportunity to break the tie after they split their pair of games in the regular season.
Though it was a banner night for the Wildcats, it was also a concerning night for the program because of what happened to Gillespie. Here is more on that as we get into the winners and losers from an important Wednesday night in college basketball
Loser: Collin Gillespie’s senior night
Gillespie was among four seniors honored at Finneran Pavilion before the game, but the game turned out to be anything except a celebratory sendoff for the decorated floor general. Gillespie left the game with a knee injury at the 6:38 mark of the first half after leaping to contest a shot by Creighton’s Damien Jefferson. Without him on the floor, Villanova looked lost at times in the second half as Creighton roared back from a 22-point deficit to challenge the Wildcats late. Ultimately, the Wildcats survived. But it was sad to see Gillespie sitting on the bench on senior night with a league title on the line, and Villanova’s performance without him was a reminder of how critical he is to the team.
The Wildcats are not a deep team, and with the postseason approaching, the seriousness of Gillespie’s injury looms as a critical issue for a team that entered the night on the projected No. 3 seed line for the NCAA Tournament.
Winner: Missouri snaps out of a funk
Missouri was trending hard in the wrong direction over the last couple of weeks entering Wednesday night’s battle of projected No. 6 seeds with Florida. The Tigers snapped out of their funk in a thrilling way, when Dru Smith hit a game-winning lay-up in the final second to lift Mizzou to a 72-70 victory.
Missouri needed that one and can enter the postseason having reclaimed some momentum if it can manage to knock off LSU this weekend.
Loser: Minnesota has collapsed
When Minnesota handed Michigan its first loss of the season on Jan. 16 and improved to 11-4, the AP voters rewarded the Gophers by bumping them up to No. 17 in the next poll. It’s been all downhill since. With their at-large hopes for the NCAA Tournament already most of the way down the tubes, the Gophers’ misery continued Wednesday in an 84-65 loss to Penn State. That’s now nine losses in 11 games for Minnesota since the Michigan win and six in a row. Injuries, including a foot issue for big man Liam Robbins, have hindered coach Richard Pitino’s squad as of late, but don’t totally excuse a collapse of this magnitude.
Winner: Syracuse gets a bubble win
Syracuse got another big win amid life on the bubble on Wednesday as the Orange knocked off Clemson 64-54 in a game that will, for now, count only as a Quad 2 win. That’s because the Tigers (15-5, 9-6) entered at No. 33 in the NET. But if Clemson can manage to sneak into the top-30 of the NET before Selection Sunday, Wednesday night’s win would become Syracuse’s first Quad 1 victory of the season. The Orange entered the game as one of the “last four out” of Jerry Palm’s projected NCAA Tournament field, and the win over a Clemson team that has been hot will be a nice boost as the Orange now turn to preparing for the ACC Tournament.
On a side note, winning an important game didn’t stop Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim from reminding everyone that he is a crank.
Winner: Wichita State takes care of business
Wichita State entered the night as a projected No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament, with bracketology expert Jerry Palm noting that their place in the bracket “would disappear with a loss to Tulane.” Well, the Shockers avoided disaster, and there’s something to be said for that at this time of year. The night was particularly enjoyable for Trey Wade, who entered averaging just 5.8 points for the Shockers but poured in a career-high 23 on 9-of-12 shooting. Wichita State hit 13-of-31 shots from 3-point range in the game, and will be a serious threat in the postseason if it can continue to shoot the ball like that.
Seton Hall entered as one of Palm’s “last four out” and did itself no favors by losing 69-58 to UConn. The Pirates play at St. John’s on Saturday, and as of now that will count as a Quad 1 game. But make no mistake: Seton Hall is fading. Wednesday night’s loss was the team’s third straight, and none of them are defensible losses. Georgetown and Butler are teams the Pirates should beat, and getting UConn at home should not have been so challenging after Seton Hall beat the Huskies on the road on Feb. 6.
Winner: Oregon is gelling
After an 82-74 win over UCLA on Wednesday night, Oregon has won nine of its last 10 games. The Ducks (18-5, 13-4 Pac-12) are still in the running for the Pac-12 title and appear to be clicking at the right time after another roster remake under coach Dana Altman. Oregon shot an absurd 60.8% from the floor. While that figure is partially an indictment on UCLA’s shaky defense, it’s also an indication of how the Ducks are finding their rhythm. Chris Duarte has reached 20 points in three of Oregon’s last four games, and transfers Eugene Omoruyi (Rutgers) and LJ Figueroa (St. John’s) continue to shine as well. The win should also allow the Ducks to exhale just a bit after they entered the night still on the bubble, according to Palm.
Loser: Maryland takes an ugly loss
Maryland’s momentum came to a screeching halt Wednesday night when the Terrapins dropped a 60-55 stunner at Northwestern. The Wildcats (8-14, 5-13 Big Ten) have won two in a row now after knocking off Minnesota last Thursday, but the Wildcats had lost 13 in a row before that. By contrast, Maryland (15-11, 9-10) entered having won five straight but now must win against Nebraska on Sunday if it wants to avoid finishing with a losing record in Big Ten play. It was the fifth time this season the Terrapins have failed to reach 60 points. Thankfully, because the loss came on the road, it will only count as a Quad 2 defeat for Maryland. It would have been their first Quad 3 loss if it happened at home.
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