NEW YORK — After Sterling Gibbs’ buzzer-beating jumper knocked top-seeded Villanova out of the Big East Tournament, Selection Committee Chair Ron Wellman may have to turn to a Craiglist posting to give away the final number one seed in the NCAA Tournament:
AVAILABLE TO GOOD HOME: Mint number one seed. Guaranteed to play a 16 seed to start tournament. Free trip to Madison Square Garden with two wins.
Gibbs’ jumper – seemingly a tribute to Kemba Walker’s winner against top-seeded Pitt in the 2011 edition of this game - capped off a wild 64-63 opener to the Big East quarterfinals. The Pirates blew a double-digit second half lead to the third-ranked team in the country only to rally back with two go-ahead jumpers in the final minute. Freshman guard Jaren Sina drained a three with 17.2 seconds remaining to give Seton Hall a one-point lead, but Villanova’s Darrun Hilliard – who made nearly every big shot for the Wildcats down the stretch – responded with a jumper that seemed like it was going to save his team’s chances at their first Big East Tournament title since 1995 and a number one seed on Selection Sunday.
Gibbs wasn’t having it. With just over three seconds remaining, the sophomore guard shook Hilliard at the top of the key and rattled home a jumper as time expired, sending the Seton Hall fans into hysterics and the Villanova fans that composed much of the Madison Square Garden crowd home with questions of what could have been.
Villanova's case for a number-one seed was built around a gaudy 28-3 record, no bad losses and a neutral floor win over Kansas. The Wildcats' fourth loss of the season certainly qualifies as a bad one, as the Pirates were just 16-16 coming into the game. With their second-best win against a struggling Iowa team, Jay Wright's crew will likely have to settle for a two seed at best.
"You've all heard me say this before: This was not about one seeds, two seeds," said Villanova coach Jay Wright after the game. "This was about we wanted to come to Madison Square Garden and win the Big East Tourament. Winning the Big East Tournament would mean much more to us than a one seed."
Despite Gibbs’ late heroics, the star of the game for Willard’s Pirates was Teague. The burly 6’9”, 270-pound center had his way with a really good Wildcats interior defense all afternoon, ending up with 19 points and 12 boards on 7-of-9 shooting. Villanova got back into the game by taking Teague away, either with double-and-triple teams or pressuring the Pirate guards so intensely they weren’t able to get an entry pass into him.
The Wildcats managed to contain the turnover issue that plagued them last year in the Garden (42 turnovers in two games, only seven Thursday), but couldn’t hit from the line, going 4-of-19 from three and 15-of-25 from the free throw line, including an ugly 3-of-10 day from JayVaughn Pinkston. All-Big East first teamer James Bell also had a nightmare game, going 0-for-8 from the field, including five misses from behind the arc.
For Seton Hall, this is their first trip to the Big East semifinals since 1994 and a chance to keep their NCAA Tournament dreams alive. For Villanova, they're comfortably in the NCAA Tournament but their stay in the Garden was a short one.
"We're really confident, honestly," admitted Gibbs after the game, "especially after you beat the No. 3 team in the country. They're the best team in the Big East, and by the same time, we know if we can beat them, we can beat anyone. We're just up for the challenge."
The Pirates play the winner of St. John’s and Providence Friday night in the first Big East semifinal.
Click the image below to relive the Villanova upset.