Losing subscribers at a fast clip, ESPN hopes moving it’s top basketball conference tournament, the ACC, into New York to protest North Carolina’s bathroom bill will help counter the Fox Sports Big East conference a few miles away at Madison Square Garden.
“I think the ACC’s in Brooklyn right? That’s a different world, man … they can have fun over there,” said Seton Hall Coach Kevin Willard after his Seton Hall Pirates beat Marquette 82-76 in the Big East tournament a few miles away in Madison Square Garden. “I said I’m never going back to Brooklyn.”
According to ESPN’s bracket projections, 70% of Fox Sports’ Big East and 67% of ESPN’s ACC teams will make March Madness, while none of the other 30 conference have more than 50%.
The Big East benefited from an opening night melee between St. John’s and Georgetown, and the trend continued when Marquette’s Andrew Rowsey and Seton Hall’s Myles Powell went after each other with 2:19 to go in the first half and Marquette leading 30-29.
The game featured the nation’s best three-point shooting team (Marquette) and three-point shooter (Markus Howard, 2nd best in history 54.8%) against a team of which Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski commented, “I’m not sure there’s a more physical team in our league, and (Angel) Delgado is an absolute beast.”
In fact, Delgado dominated inside to grab 16 rebounds and help Seton Hall dominate Marquette 40-12 in the paint to take an 82-76 lead.
If Howard were to hit seven of nine three-pointers the rest of the season he would finish 86 of 153 to break the all-time season record for three-point field goal percentage at 56.2% (Micah Mason of Duquesne once hit 56.0%).
The first Big East semifinal pits Seton Hall against Villanova, which destroyed St. John’s by 40 points Thursday and may be the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament in light of Kansas being upset in their first game of the Big 12 tournament.
Willard was joking about never going back to Brooklyn, as he recruits players there regularly, but the question is whether ESPN’s move there to get to a bigger market and have ACC get into the bathroom debate is timely in light of the other challenges the network is facing.