(3) Marquette v. (2) Georgetown
Marquette's charmed season has come to a close following Georgetown's 12-8 defeat of the Eagles in the first semifinal of the Big East Tournament. A year that started with seven consecutive victories and a strong national ranking evaporated at Villanova Stadium, the final speech in a campaign that witnessed Marquette suffer through a 3-6 effort over the team's final nine games. Georgetown, contrastingly, has extended its season of revitalization at least one more game, the Hoyas having an opportunity to erase any questions about the team's at-large candidacy for the NCAA Tournament with a chance to grasp the Big East's automatic invitation to The Show.
Georgetown started fast against the Eagles, tallying the contest's first four goals in an extended run that came across a 10:15 stretch in the opening period. The rush seemed to set the tone for the Hoyas as Georgetown pivoted from every response that Marquette made in the second 15 minutes of the game, withstanding a three-goal push from the Eagles in the second quarter with three goals of their own, the markers offering a sustainable 7-4 advantage at the intermission. Three consecutive goals from Marquette out of the break drew Marquette within one and seemed to change momentum, but after trading goals with Georgetown, the Hoyas would pop for four straight buckets in about a six-minute rush in the later stages of the final quarter to crash Marquette out of the postseason event.
Bo Stafford and Craig Berge had identical three-goal, two-assist efforts to pace the Hoyas while Conor Gately and Blaine Fleming each had two goals for the Eagles. Nick Marrocco had an exceptional 12-save performance for Georgetown, including eight in the first half that helped the Hoyas build their volition. Marquette took only 24 shots in the game and connected on a third of their attempts while Georgetown rifled 37 shots and hit twine just under a third of the time.
(4) Villanova v. (1) Denver
It took Denver 25:21 to earn its first lead of the game against Villanova, but once the Pioneers did the team did not relinquish its advantage after going out in front, surging to a 16-9 victory against the Wildcats in the second semifinal of the Big East Tournament. The loss ends Villanova's season at 6-8 while Denver will play an NCAA Tournament-relevant game against Georgetown in the Big East Tournament final. Connor Cannizzaro ran to a seven-point outing on four goals and three assists while Wes Berg and Erik Adamson each produced four-and-one efforts against Villanova. Danny Seibel and Johnny Gallaway were worth three goals apiece for the Wildcats.
Denver was its traditional self against the Wildcats despite the time it took for the Pios to seize control of the game. In a contest featuring deflated pace -- the estimated tempo was 51 possessions -- Denver converted on north of 51 percent of their estimated offensive opportunities while dominating possession margin to the tune of an estimated plus-11 advantage. Denver yielded goals at an elevated rate on a per-possession basis -- the Wildcats scored on 45 percent of their estimated offensive opportunities -- but the team's incredible offensive production combined with an indomitable opportunity margin crushed the soul of Villanova as the game progressed toward its expiration. The Wildcats' turnover issues on its light volume of offensive opportunities were beneficial to the Pioneers, and combined with three runs of at least three goals, lit a fuse for Denver to enter skull-crushing mode.
Dan Willis deserves a medal for his 56:47 in the net for Villanova: The keeper yielded 16 goals against 14 saves, but he did so while facing 42 shots (over 70 percent of which were on goal). Standing up against . . . whatever the hell this Pioneers offense is remains a special kind of torture, and while Willis' 46.67 save percentage is less than exemplary, it was earned in the most dastardly of circumstances.