Marquette Golden Eagles vs. Providence Friars Pick & Prediction MARCH 15th 2024

NEW YORK — Providence is two wins from assuring itself of an NCAA Tournament bid.

But in case they don’t win the Big East Conference tournament and the automatic NCAA entry that comes with it, the seventh-seeded Friars (21-12) are making a strong case for the selection committee. And they’ll get another chance at enhancing an already solid resume Friday night when they play third-seeded Marquette (24-8) — the nation’s 10th-ranked team — in the conference semifinals.

The winner will meet either top-seeded and No. 2-ranked UConn or streaking St. John’s, the fifth seed, in Saturday’s championship game.

Providence won the tournament title in 1994 and 2014, and Marquette is the defending champion.

Two years ago, Providence was the top seed and took a 27-point loss to Creighton in the semis. This time, the Friars are in the semifinals after earning a 78-73 victory over Creighton in Thursday’s quarterfinals that marked their sixth Quad 1 victory.

“This time of the season some teams are playing for their lives,” Providence coach Kim English said after the win over Creighton. “(We had) ups and downs all season, adversity, less-than-ideal mindset and moments, bad shots, bad plays, bad turnovers, bad responses, (but) we got 40 minutes to be our most locked-in selves. That was one of our best efforts of the season.”

Devin Carter has fueled Providence’s two tournament wins after claiming Big East Player of the Year honors. He followed a 19-point showing in Wednesday’s win over Georgetown by collecting 22 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals while playing the entire 40 minutes against Creighton.

“I think it was a must-win game,” said Carter, who played at least 40 minutes for the fifth time this season and averages 35.4 minutes per game. “We want to keep our tournament dreams alive, and we also want to get a Big East championship.”

Providence is in the semifinals after ending the regular season with three losses in four games, including a 91-69 setback at then-No. 5 Marquette on Feb. 28.

On Thursday, Marquette advanced to the semifinals via an overtime win for the second straight season. Last year the Golden Eagles moved on by beating St. John’s in the quarterfinals and later defeated Xavier to win the conference title, and this time they outlasted Villanova 71-65.

Marquette nearly won it in regulation, but officials ruled Kam Jones’ basket did not beat the buzzer. Jones scored 18 points and David Joplin added six of his 14 in overtime to help the Golden Eagles withstand the absence of All-Big East guard Tyler Kolek due to an oblique injury.

Kolek is expected to remain out Friday, though he has been practicing. On Friday, the Golden Eagles hope to get clutch performances again from Jones and Joplin while getting help from Oso Ighodaro, whose lone basket occurred late in overtime.

“Obviously we’d love to win the Big East tournament,” Marquette coach Shaka Smart said. “We’d love to win tomorrow night. I think what our guys are showing these last couple of games and even the two games we lost without Tyler is that we can compete with anyone, even while he’s recovering.”

–Larry Fleisher, Field Level Media

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