March 10, 2022 

BIG EAST tournament round-up

UConn defeats Villanova in final

The BIG EAST Conference tournament came to a close on Monday and with that, the conference season is over. The final between No. 2 Villanova and No. 1 UConn was the final act in a great weekend of conference tournament basketball. The finals served as a compelling rematch of Villanova’s win over UConn earlier this season that snapped the Huskies’ 169-game winning streak.

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In this iteration of the conference rivalry, UConn took control early and never looked back. In the first half, the Huskies held Villanova to 8-of-27 field goal shooting (29.6%) and 2-of-11 (18.2%) from behind the arc. As a contrast, UConn shot 14-of-25 from the field (56.0%) in a balanced effort.

Evina Westbrook (13 points), Aaliyah Edwards (12 points) and Olivia Nelson-Ododa (11 points) all contributed double-figure scoring for the conference tournament champs. Maddy Siegrist led all Villanova scorers with 16 points. Ultimately, UConn’s physicality and depth overwhelmed the Wildcats in a 70-40 win.

“They’re very physical. It’s nothing like we haven’t seen before,” said Siegrist. “Just they have five players that are physical, not just one or two.”

Villanova drops to 3-2 all-time in five BIG EAST title game appearances. They won the BIG EAST tournament in 1986, 1987 and most recently 2003. This 2022 finals served as a rematch of the 2003 title game, where the Wildcats defeated the Huskies by a score of 52-48.

UConn’s tournament win is their 20th in BIG EAST history, tied with all other BIG EAST teams combined. As members of the conference from 1982 to 2013, UConn won 37 conference titles (19 regular season, 18 tournament). When they returned to the league last season, the program picked up where it left off, going undefeated in league play and winning the regular season and tournament titles. This year they clinched their 21st regular season and 20th conference tournament titles.

All-Tournament team

UConn senior Christyn Williams was named the BIG EAST tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Williams added after the conference tournament win that this is the sweetest tournament win of her UConn career.

“This is my favorite because this team has gone through so much over the course of this season … on and off the court. And we had to work so hard to get to where we are right now,” Williams said. “So this one just feels really good. And I’m just super proud to call these girls my teammates and my sisters, and I’m just super proud of my team.”

UConn teammates Evina Westbrook and Aaliyah Edwards joined Williams on the All-Tournament team. Maddy Siegrist (Villanova), Lauren-Park Lane (Seton Hall) and Karissa McLaughlin (Marquette) were also honored.

BIG EAST Tournament Most Outstanding Player
Christyn Williams, UConn

All-Tournament Team
Aaliyah Edwards, UConn
Evina Westbrook, UConn
Maddy Siegrist, Villanova
Lauren Park-Lane, Seton Hall
Karissa McLaughlin, Marquette

Bursting bubbles?

In the latest version of Charlie Creme’s bracketology, Villanova is projected as the “last one in” to the 68-team NCAA tournament field. In addition to UConn’s automatic bid by winning the conference tournament title, Creighton is also projected to be part of the field.

Several coaches spoke to the media over the tournament weekend about how they believe the BIG EAST is being overlooked for spots in the NCAA tournament. In particular, Seton Hall head coach Tony Bozzella made an impassioned plea for the eye test.

“I don’t understand how we can win 11 of 13 and no one talked about us being one of the best teams,” coach Bozzella said. “We lost to Creighton in double overtime and we lost to Villanova in a close game. We beat Villanova before we got here. We beat Creighton [in the quarterfinals]. We’ve beaten Princeton, which is a Top 25 team in the country. We’ve beaten Toledo, which only has four losses, is a top 60 team in the country. We won at DePaul.”

“And all everyone did is talk about everybody else. It’s disgusting and disrespectful. And those people that look at the NET rating and don’t (expletive) cover women’s basketball anymore. You have to watch the teams play.”

The NCAA tournament bracket will be revealed during the selection show at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 13, on ESPN.

Written by Tee Baker

Tee has been a contributor to The Next since March Madness 2021 and is currently a contributing editor, BIG EAST beat reporter and curator of historical deep dives.

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