Not many would have guessed it but sixth-seeded Creighton and seventh-seeded Xavier will meet in the Big East semis on Friday night. Creighton head coach Greg McDermott isn’t shocked, saying there is parity in the conference other than the top and bottom teams. “Obviously Villanova separated themselves on the top, and DePaul, while they got a lot better, didn’t win a lot on the bottom,” McDermott said after Creighton’s 62-57 upset over Providence. “But you could take the other eight and put us all in the hat and pick us out any night. There’s not much difference and any given night anything could happen.”
Creighton missed 10 of its 11 three-point attempts in the first half but only trailed by three at halftime. After starting the second half on an 8-0 run, Creighton was able to hold on for the gutsy win. “I’m extremely proud of our team,” McDermott said. “We kind of won a rock fight tonight.”
Khyri Thomas led Creighton with 19 points and Marcus Foster added 15. It’s an impressive win for a team that lost guard Maurice Watson to an ACL injury in January in a game against Xavier.
Xavier lost Edmond Sumner to an ACL injury in a game at MSG at the end of January but are still finding ways to win. With many expecting a Villanova-Butler title game, an interesting matchup because Butler beat Villanova twice this season, Xavier knocked off Butler, with Trevon Bluiett leading the way with 23 points including the go-ahead basket to break a 57-57 tie. Malcolm Bernard registered a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. It was a big win for a team that knows it’s on the cusp of the big dance.
“We have competitive guys,” said head coach Chris Mack. “And they understand what’s at stake. I don’t know how you can’t, 2017, everywhere we go guys have their phones up to their noses. So I’m sure they’re Snapchatting, but at the same time they’re probably checking Twitter and seeing the bottom line on ESPN and Fox Sports 1, Stewart Mandel. We’re aware of all that stuff.”
And all of a sudden, Creighton and Xavier will meet for the chance to play in the Big East title game.