New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - The top-seeded Villanova Wildcats will begin their postseason run on Thursday, as they take on the ninth-seeded Marquette Golden Eagles in the quarterfinal round of the 2015 Big East Conference Tournament.
Villanova ended the regular season in impressive fashion, coasting to a 105-68 victory over St. John's at Wells Fargo Center for its 12th consecutive win. The Wildcats have not lost since falling in a 78-58 final at Georgetown on Jan. 19. Coach Jay Wright's team has risen to the No. 4 spot in the national rankings and he hopes that its performance in the Big East Tournament will solidify a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats are ranked in the top-25 nationally in points per game (76.7, 21st), and they are allowing only 61.5 ppg to rank second in the Big East in scoring defense.
Since joining the Big East prior to the 2005-06 season, Marquette is the only team in the league to reach at least the quarterfinals of the tourney each time. The Golden Eagles ended a four-game losing streak in Big East Tournament games on Wednesday as they cruised to a 78-56 win over Seton Hall. The Golden Eagles drained 13-of-22 attempts from beyond the arc and handed out 23 assists. First-year coach Steve Wojciechowski will need to guide his team on a miracle run to the tournament championship if it has any shot at an NCAA Tournament berth. At one point this season, MU suffered 12 losses in 13 games during conference play.
Villanova defeated the Golden Eagles, 70-52, in Philadelphia when these teams had their first meeting of the season on Feb. 4. The Wildcats then notched an 87-76 decision in Milwaukee to complete the sweep.
Wright, who was named the Big East Coach of the Year, has never had such a complete team in March during his tenure at Villanova. Not only has the guard play been top notch with a pair of First-Team All-Big East guards in Darrun Hilliard and Ryan Arcidiacono, but the Wildcats have also received strong interior play this season from forwards JayVaughn Pinkston (9.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Daniel Ochefu (9.3 ppg, 8.3 ppg, 1.3 bpg). Hilliard (14.2 ppg) has shown drastic improvement while becoming the focal point of Villanova's attack, while Arcidiacono (10.7 ppg, 3.6 apg) has been consistently steady at point guard en route to a Big East Co-Player of the Year accolade. Dylan Ennis and Josh Hart both stepped up in key situations during the Wildcats' winning streak. Ennis tallied 14 points, seven boards and six assists at Marquette on Feb. 21.
BYU graduate transfer Matt Carlino spearheaded the charge for Marquette in his final collegiate campaign with 14.9 points, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals per tilt. Carlino was clearly not ready to see his career end on Wednesday, as he poured in 26 points with the help of an 8-of-12 effort beyond the arc. Fellow senior Derrick Wilson ran the show brilliantly, as he handed out 14 assists while committing only two turnovers. The Golden Eagles also received solid contributions from a pair of underclassmen in freshman guard Duane Wilson and sophomore big man Luke Fischer, who scored 13 and 14 points, respectively. Wilson netted 13.1 ppg on 38.9 percent efficiency from the floor during the regular season to earn a spot on the Big East All-Rookie Team, while Carlino earned all-conference Second Team accolades.