From first to third to who knows where is Seton Hall’s story as it opens play in the Big East Tournament, Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
Seton Hall had command of the Big East Conference most of the season, then lost its final two games of the season to its top two rivals. The result was a three-way tie for first place and the Pirates, by virtue of tie-breaker, getting the No. 3 seed.
That means instead of awaiting the winner of a Wednesday play-in game, as top-seed Creighton (24-7, 13-5) and second-seed Villanova (24-7, 13-5) are, The Hall (21-9, 13-5) will face sixth-seed Marquette (18-12, 8-10), Thursday, 9:30 p.m.
Oddsmakers have made Creighton the 3-1 favorite to win the 10-team tournament, while Seton Hall and Villanova are slightly behind at 7-2.
The Pirates have been to the Big East Championship game three times in the tournaments’s history and won all three times (’91 vs Georgetown, ’93 vs. Syracuse and ’16 vs. Villanova).
If Seton Hall gets by Marquette it will likely get a rematch with Villanova, providing the Wildcats can get by the winner of seventh-seed Xavier and 10-seed DePaul.
Seton Hall swept Marquette during the regular season, winning 69-55 at The Rock early in the season and later beating the Eagles in Milwaukee, 87-79.
This will also be the third match-up of the season been good friends and rivals Markus Howard, of Marquette, the nation’s leading scorer at 27.8 points per game and Seton Hall’s Myles Powell (21.3).
In the two wins over Marquette, Powell scored 23 and 28 points.
It’s no secret that as Powell goes so go the Pirates. In those last two losses to end the season he was held to a total of 29 points, shot just 11-for-31 from the floor and just 5-for-16 from 3-point range.
In games this year where Powell scores 20 points, or more, Seton Hall is 12-3 overall and 8-1 in Big East play. In games where he scores 15 points, or less, the Pirates are 1-5 overall and 1-4 in Big East play.
St. John’s vs. Georgetown, 7 p.m.
Xavier vs. DePaul, 9:30
St. John/Georgetown winner vs Creighton, noon
Butler vs. Providence, 2:30
Xavier/DePaul winner vs. Villanova, 7
Marquette vs. Seton Hall, 9:30
Semifinals, 6:30 and 9
Seton Hall 7-2
St. John’s 18-1