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Big East Tournament 2011: What We Learned From Day One

The first round of the 2011 Big East Conference Tournament was completed around 11:45 p.m Tuesday night as the No. 11-seeded Marquette Golden Eagles easily defeated the No. 14 Providence Friars, 87-66. Though, the night cap was a blow out, games No. 2 and 3 were outstanding as No. 15 USF upset No. 10 Villanova and Rutgers downed New Jersey rival Seton Hall, 76-70, in overtime — UConn easily defeated DePaul, 97-71, in game one.

The game recaps just tell the stories of Tuesday, but there’s a lot that Big East basketball fans learned. Here’s a recap of the lessons:

Lesson 1: In a scrappy game, never bet against head coach Mike Rice and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

A couple weeks ago, Rutgers gave the Syracuse Orange a run for their money, but came up just short in overtime loss, 84-80. On Tuesday, Rutgers pulled out a dramatic OT victory, despite giving up a buzzer-beating, game-tying 3-pointer to Seton Hall senior forward Jeremy Hazell. Hazell, who had a bitter-sweet ending to his career at SHU, just couldn’t spark the Pirates to a come-from-behind win. Why? Because Rice knows how to coach in tight games. His players are prepared to perform above their talent level and now, the Scarlet Knights are the best college hoops team in the state of New Jersey.

Lesson 2: Villanova may not be a NCAA Tournament team.

Losers of five straight and seven of their last nine games, the Wildcats are reeling. And, that’s a understatement. It was a really tough day to be a Villanova basketball fan as the USF, which had never won a Big East Tournament game or beat ‘Nova, came-from-behind in the final minutes to advance to the second round. It truly was one of the worst collapses I’ve ever watched. As much as I love senior guards Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes, do they really deserve to be in the tournament after a performance like that? (Stokes scored 16 points in the first half, but none in the second. Fisher netted just 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting.)