Big East Championship: #1 Creighton vs #2 Seton Hall
When: Saturday, November 29, 2014, at 4pm Central
Audio/Visual: Fox Sports 2, with live stats here.
Season Series: Seton Hall won, 2-0.
As was the case a year ago, the top two seeds in the Big East are squaring off for the tournament crown. By way of a 3-1 win over Xavier, Creighton has advanced to their second Big East title game in as many years as a member of the conference. In the second of the two semifinal matches, Seton Hall fended off a Marquette charge and won in five sets, 3-2.
During the 2014 regular season, Creighton lost two Big East matches. Both of them were to the Pirates. The first contest was in South Orange, NJ, and at the time, it was a battle of undefeated teams in the Big East. In that match, Creighton took a 2-1 advantage through three frames, but were never able to take another lead. Seton Hall raced to a 25-15 win in the fourth set to lock it up at two each, and then jumped out to a 9-2 advantage in the fifth to coast comfortably to a 15-9 win to take over first place for the time being.
The two teams would meet again in the regular season finale, but by that time, Seton Hall had dropped three matches along the way. Since Creighton came in on an 11 match winning streak, they had already locked up the #1 seed in the Big East tournament. Seton Hall must have felt that they had something to prove against the Jays, and walked out of D.J. Sokol Arena with a relatively easy 3-0 (25-20, 25-17, 25-16) win.
Seton Hall used relatively balanced attacks to take two wins from Creighton. In the first go-round, six different Pirates had at least six kills, led by 19 from Stacey Manthorpe. In the match in Omaha, SHU benefited from 24 Creighton errors in three sets, and as a result, only two players broke 10 kills. However, they were two of five Pirates to record at least five kills.
Creighton struggled with their hitting in both matches, largely because of Seton Hall's ability to record blocks. The Pirates recorded 35 team blocks in the eight sets between the sides this season, led by 17 recorded by Ashani Rubin. Creighton's Kelli Browning led the Big East in hitting percentage this season (currently at .347 for the season), but she was held to efforts of .200 and .042 in the two contests against Seton Hall.
If you're a neutral fan (like me), it's hard to say who to cheer for. In the most recent update, Seton Hall was sitting at #56 in the NCAA's RPI calculations. They're going to benefit from defeating #26 Marquette in the semifinals, but probably not enough to sneak in an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Meanwhile, Creighton is sitting at #34 in those same RPI rankings, and probably won't survive a loss to Seton Hall, even on a neutral floor. If aesthetics matters to you, I liked watching Creighton yesterday more than I liked watching Seton Hall, but remember: I was cheering against Seton Hall, too.