Three Big East Teams advanced to the Sweet 16 in yesterday’s NCAA Tournament play, and three others have a shot to do so today.
Three conference teams in the regional finals is already a better showing for the Big East than in 2011. Last year, despite having 11 conference teams in the NCAA tournament field, only two advanced to the Sweet 16: Marquette and the tournament champion Connecticut Huskies.
Syracuse, the top-seeded team in the tournament’s East Region, was the first to advance yesterday, defeating the eighth-seed Kansas St. Wildcats 75-59 in Pittsburgh. The Orange, which struggled in its first game against the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs, benefited from the hot shooting of Dion Waiters (18 points), Scoop Jardine (16 points) and James Southerland (15 points). The Wildcats made it a contest until midway through the second half, but the Orange took control late and won going away.
Syracuse next faces the fourth-seeded Wisconsin Badgers.
In the West Region, third-seeded Marquette and the sixth-seeded Murray St. Racers played one of the most compelling games of the tournament thus far. Playing in Louisville, Ky., the two teams were locked in a tight contest through much of the game until Murray St. took the upper hand with just under eight minutes remaining. Marquette responded with run to reclaim the lead, and held off a late surge by the Racers, making key free throws in the final minute to seal the win, 62-53. Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom led all scorers with 17 points each. Isaiah Canaan had 16.
Marquette will face the winner of today’s game between the seventh-seeded Florida gators and the 15th-seeded Norfolk St. Spartans.
Led by 17 points from Russ Smith, fourth-seeded Louisville held off the fifth seeded New Mexico Lobos 59-56 in Portland, Ore. New Mexico’s Drew Gordon injured his knee late in the first half but returned to lead all scorers with 21 points. The Big East Tournament champion Cardinals posted a 15-point lead early in the second quarter and withstood a surge form the Lobos to advance to the Sweet 16.
In today’s games, third-seeded Georgetown faces the 11th-seeded N.C. State Wolfpack and 12th-seeded South Florida meets the 13th-seeded Ohio Bobcats in the Midwest Region while sixth seeded Cincinnati squares off against the third-seeded Florida St. Seminoles in the East Region.
Stay tuned to Big East Coast Bias for news and commentary on the NCAA Men's basketball tournament. For more coverage of the South Florida Bulls, visitVoodoo Five. For coverage of the Georgetown Hoyas, check out Casual Hoya. For coverage of the Cincinnati Bearcats visit Down the Drive.