Ka-Deidre Simmons, the catalyst behind Seton Hall's resounding success, honors an adoring fan with an autograph. (Photo courtesy of Ray Floriani)
Back around January, the ‘Guru’ himself, Mel Greenberg, lightheartedly devised a Big East ‘Italian division’: Doug Bruno at DePaul, Tony Bozzella of Seton Hall, Villanova’s Harry Perretta and St. John’s mentor Joe Tartamella. You get the idea. In terms of records, postseason invitations, and metrics, that mythical division stood out from the rest of the pack. Those teams on the negative side of efficiency margin were not easy outs by any stretch. They had their moments and generally made life tough for those in the upper half. In a fan entertaining, uptempo league, there was a lot more parity than the records lead to believe. Numbers are from conference games only and courtesy of bbstate.com:
1) DePaul (+20 efficiency margin, 15-3 record)
2) Seton Hall (+13, 15-3)
3) Villanova (+12, 12-6)
4) Creighton (+5, 10-8)
5) St. John's (+4, 11-7)
6) Butler (-1, 10-8)
7) Xavier (-10, 8-10)
8) Georgetown (-12, 2-16)
9) Marquette (-14, 4-14)
10) Providence (-17, 3-15)
1) DePaul (77 possessions)
2) Marquette (76.3)
3) Georgetown (76.1)
4) Seton Hall (75.8)
1) Villanova (62.2 possessions)
2) Creighton (68.6)
The Big East proved to be a transition conference, with teams such as DePaul and Seton Hall looking to get out in transition. Even those under .500, such as Marquette and Georgetown, bought into a faster-paced mentality.
Villanova was no surprise as the most deliberate. Coach Harry Perretta has run the motion offense at ‘Nova for decades, and who argues with the success? Interesting that the conference’s second ‘slowest’ in pace, Creighton, still played at a relatively brisk tempo.
1) DePaul (109 offensive efficiency)
T-2) Villanova (101)
T-2) Creighton (101)
T-1) Seton Hall (87 defensive efficiency)
T-1) St. John's (87)
T-3) DePaul (89)
T-3) Villanova (89)
Coach Tony Bozzella’s Seton Hall Pirates were just off pace in offensive efficiency, still showing a strong 100 efficiency. On the defensive end, they and St. John’s were the best of the conference.
Perretta was once told his motion offense is a thing of beauty. “There’s beauty,” he replied, “when we execute it right.” Villanova got it right, not only running the most patient offense, but excelling at caring for the ball with an outstanding, and conference best, 11.7% TO rate. Half the conference was over 20% in turnover rate, which could be a byproduct of those high octane offenses. The better teams did not have a turnover issue. Butler was the lone team over .500 that exceeded the 20% TO rate, and barely, at 20.7.
DePaul was the lone team cracking 50% in eFG with a 51% mark. Villanova was right behind at 49%. DePaul also led with 53% true shooting. St. John’s at 48% was the only team with a winning record not hitting the 50% mark.
Xavier had the highest FT rate at 17%. No one hit 20% and to little surprise, perimeter oriented Villanova was at the bottom with 10%.
Defense saw DePaul force opponents into a 24.8% TO rate. Seton Hall was arguably the best all around. The Pirates limited opposition to a 43% eFG rate while getting opponents to turn the ball over at a 21.9% norm.
The Big East was, as noted, an entertaining, uptempo conference. Not as much pure post up threats with the accent on guard/forward play.
The championship: DePaul 78, Seton Hall 68
The time worn axiom of the difficulty in beating a team three times in one season held in the title meeting. The pace, to no surprise, was pushed to a 75-possession affair. The efficiency saw the Blue Demons with a 105-91 advantage. DePaul did have a 28% TO rate, a dangerously high number. The ‘sins’ of coughing up the ball were offset by an outstanding 63.7 eFG percentage. This was against a Seton Hall club that allowed a stingy 43% on defense during the course of the conference season. That proved to be the difference as DePaul had only one more trip to the line than the Hall and had a slight 2928% edge in offensive rebounding percentage.