“There’s nothing better. I can remember every minute, every shot.” On Tuesday, Kevin Willard spoke of his glory days playing in the Big East Tournament for the University of Pittsburgh back when the school was a part of the conference. Instead of playing in the tourney, Willard will be on the sidelines of the world’s most famous arena Thursday night when Seton Hall takes on the Creighton Bluejays in the quarterfinals. Predicted to finish seventh overall in the conference, the Hall finished the year in third place, ahead of Georgetown and Butler, who were respectively picked to finish second and third. The Pirates finished their regular season this past weekend 22-8 overall and 12-6 in the Big East, but they are not done yet. Proving and continuing to prove expectations wrong is something sophomore guard Isaiah Whitehead is all too familiar with. “In the preseason we were telling everyone we were going to prove them wrong, and to actually do it speaks volumes,” he said. “Even though we did that, we’re still hungry and want to win more games.”
The road to playing more games in March begins with Creighton, a game that Willard believes to be “business as usual.” The Hall split its season series with the Bluejays. The Pirates lost to them at the Prudential Center on Jan. 9 and went on to beat them in Omaha on Jan. 30. “It’s the third time we’re playing Creighton, so the good thing is you kind of know them a bit,” Willard said. “So your preparation is a little bit easier. Even though we haven’t played them in a while, we’re familiar with them.” A key factor to the Bluejays’ offense is Maurice Watson Jr., a junior guard who was named to the All-Big East Second Team earlier this week. Graduate guard Derrick Gordon played a large role in shutting Watson down in their previous matchup, but according to Willard, it’s not that easy to contain Watson.
“Derrick was great, but the thing about Mo Watson is it’s not just one guy. All five guys have to play pick-and-roll defense on him because he’s so tough. He gets in the lane and puts a lot of pressure on your weak-side defense.”
There is a chance Gordon does not play on Thursday. While he does not have a concussion, he is undergoing concussion protocol after banging his head in Seton Hall’s regular season finale on March 5. Either way, the madness officially starts for the Pirates at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday in a setting Willard gushed about.
“As a player, there’s no better feeling than the Big East Tournament.” Olivia Mulvihill can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Olivia Mulvihill.