In what has the potential to be quite a championship battle with a Big East tournament title on the line, the Wildcats will take on the fifth-seeded Providence Friars, who are coming off a thrilling overtime win over the Xavier Musketeers, despite trailing by 17 points at one point in the second half. Lacking motivation or not, the Wildcats have absolutely bulldozed their first two opponents in Madison Square Garden, blowing out Marquette in the quarterfinals, 94-70, then jumping out to a 19-0 lead against Butler in the semis and rolling to an 87-68 victory.
It wasn't going to be that easy this time.
The next time it happens, of course, it won't be simply the end of the conference season that swings in the balance.
But here's the thing: You can play with all the joy in the world, but you more often than not need a helluva lot more than joy to beat Villanova. Brunson and Bridges carried the Wildcats though a wild game in which momentum swung drastically from the start, when No. 2 seed Villanova got off to a nine-point lead before No. 5 seed Providence (21-13) punched back to tie the score.
Even though Providence may not be as talented as Xavier, the Wildcats are preparing for a tough matchup. So expect fireworks when try to take down the title from Villanova on Saturday night.
From the BIG EAST Tournament transcript...
Villanova advanced to the tournament final in convincing fashion by ripping making 10 of its first 12 shots and never letting up.
A 12- point lead began to disappear. "They had the ball and we were fortunate that they missed", a wide open 3-pointer from the left corner by Mitch Bullock. In the two encounters this season against them, the Wildcats split a win but has lost the last match at Providence 76-71. The Friars were paced by Kyron Cartwright who scored 19 points and Alpha Diallo with 22 points. "But having said that, we still would have preferred to play in the finals".
After the Friars terribly inconsistent regular season the team is getting hot at exactly the right time thanks to excellent coaching from Cooley. Providence's turnover percentage was their biggest strength over Xavier.
And Bridges lay down to pose for a photo on the court with mascot Will D. Cat and the cheerleaders, before hugging a woman named Kim Barben, his old 10th-grade European history teacher, who had come rushing down from her seat to the edge of the court to tell him: "I'm so proud of you!" We played a great team and we're fortunate to move on.