Logic was tossed aside last weekend in the Big East – disregarded and downright teased.
When the Seton Hall women’s basketball team fell to last place Xavier at home, many expected a focused effort on Sunday, but few imagined a straightforward, 21-point win over second place Butler.
Surely Butler did not, although warning signs were there after a mere 73-68 win on Friday against ninth-place St. John’s in Queens.
Xavier, having climbed out of the basement with its upset, and Butler, having avoided a résumé blemish after outlasting St. John’s, seemed to sleepwalk into Sunday. The Musketeers dropped back to last place with a 70-41 dismantling in Carnesecca Arena, while Butler were run out of Walsh Gym by Seton Hall, 83-62.
In the end, on Sunday, both Midwest travelers got exactly what they fought so hard to avoid on Friday, while both metropolitan schools – in large part – redeemed their crushing losses that started the weekend.
“We had a little strategy, and I think the kids really followed it well,” Seton Hall head coach Tony Bozzella said after Sunday’s win. “I was really proud of them, we forced 21 turnovers for [Butler], and I think that’s a lot. Seven for [Kristen] Spolyar, six for [Tori] Schickel. I thought we did a really good job with that.”
The plan was clear for Bozzella, facing a Butler team whose greatest strength is also its most glaring weakness. The Bulldogs entered Sunday first in the conference in steals per game, but also ninth out of 10 in assist-to-turnover ratio.
Seton Hall managed 13 steals to only six for Butler, and the Pirates and Bulldogs looked to have switched rolls from their earlier meeting on Jan. 4.
But despite chameleon-like tendencies from the four schools in action on opposite sides of the Hudson River last weekend, the amount of rising and falling in the Big East women’s basketball standings was minimal.
The conference is taking shape, with a concrete leader and molding bottom, but the upper and lower middle is very much liquid, and this weekend could be the boiling point.
Seton Hall, 6-5, fifth place in the Big East, is truly at a crossroads. Two regrettable losses to Xavier make this adverse, unorthodox trip to Providence and then Omaha – for games against Providence and Creighton – one with no margin for error.
Providence will pull even and Seton Hall will slip further from the top with a loss on Friday. Meanwhile, Butler, still second place at 7-4, only play once this weekend, in Hinkle against last place Xavier.
Elsewhere, Villanova host third place DePaul on Friday, followed by undefeated-in-conference, No. 8 in the nation Marquette on Sunday. The cannibalistic nature of a weekend in which three of the top four teams battle one another opens the door for fifth place Seton Hall, if the Pirates can earn two wins on opposite ends of the conference this weekend.
If the challenging trip goes as planned, Seton Hall can begin emphasizing a second or third place finish, in an effort to position opposite the Marquette gauntlet in the Big East Tournament bracket.
However, if one or both results are spoiled, the Pirates may find themselves sinking in mid-table quicksand, as Butler and DePaul further solidify second and third place statuses.
The Pirates will need to channel the best version of themselves – with crisp shooting and suffocating defense, as was the case on Sunday – to find consistency in a weekend that, through its travel, provides anything but.
James Justice can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @JamesJusticeIII.