Once upon a time, the Big East Tournament was the centerpiece appetizer before NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. After a shakeup in the conference a few years ago, we can officially say we have a new “Beast Of The East.” Villanova won its third consecutive Big East Tournament in a grind out with Seton Hall. 74-72.

The Wildcats needed overtime to dispatch Xavier in Friday’s semifinal, while Seton Hall beat Marquette in a 2-point thriller to advance to their first Big East Tournament final ever.

Villanova was the top seed in this year’s tournament, the fifth time in the last six seasons for Jay Wright’s squad.

This is the 5th Big East Tournament Championship for Villanova and the 4th in the last 5 years. Villanova has won 8 of the last 10 Big East Men’s Basketball Championships (combined regular season and tournament titles) and 9 of the last 12.

Phil Booth was awarded the B.E.T. Most Outstanding Player Award. He joins Josh Hart (2x winner), Kerry Kittles and Mikal Bridges as Wildcat players to have earned the honor.

This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Wildcats.  Villanova captured the national championship a year ago but then was depleted by defections for the NBA Draft, and it showed at times. The Wildcats still managed to win the Big East regular-season title behind returning seniors Booth and Eric Paschall despite losing five of their last eight games.

But once the Wildcats got to Madison Square Garden, they handle their business with strong team defensive plays and grabbing timely rebounds. Both finalists will make the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and both teams will be a tough out.