Marquette

For the fourth time in as many years, Marquette (24-9, 12-6 Big East regular season) is in the NCAA tournament, garnering the sixth seed in the West Region with an at-large selection and securing four consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since 1980. This marks the 27th trip to the NCAAs for the Golden Eagles. After beating St. John’s in the second round of the Big East tournament, the Golden Eagles fell to Villanova 76-75 on a buzzer-beater.

arquette squads have enjoyed moderate success in previous Marches, posting a 33-27 all-time mark in the tournament with six regional championship matchups, three Final Four bids and the 1970 national championship. Having played a dozen games this season against 10 tournament-bound teams, the Eagles enter this postseason primed to compete against the best the country has to offer. The team arrived in Boise late Wednesday, where the Eagles will make final preparations to face 11th-seeded Utah State this afternoon.

Villanova

aking their fifth consecutive NCAA bid, the Wildcats kicked off their tournament at the nearby Wachovia Center against the American University Eagles last night, where Villanova plays some of its regular-season home games. After falling behind by 14 points in the early moments of the second half, Villanova came storming back for a relatively-comfortable 80-67 win. The Wildcats turned a 26-7 overall record with a 13-5 conference mark into the program’s fifth all-time No. 3 seed. Villanova’s current streak of five consecutive playoff berths is the second-longest in school history, remaining two short of a program-best seven straight from 1980-1986. In its previous 29 trips to the postseason, the Wildcats have posted an impressive 44-29 record. This year’s trip looks to hold promise as Villanova is coming off of a fourth-place finish in the ultra-competitive Big East and its most wins over ranked teams (four) in three years.

Connecticut

For the fifth time in school history, the UConn Huskies garnered a No. 1 regional seed, beginning this year’s tournament bid with a dominating 103-47 thumping of Chattanooga yesterday. A 27-4 regular-season mark garnered many team accolades in addition to the No. 1 seed. Junior forward Hasheem Thabeet’s was crowned as a second-team All-America selection as well as the co-Big East Player of the Year. The Huskies entered yesterday’s opening-round tilt against 16th-seeded Chattanooga on the heels of last Thursday’s historic six-overtime ouster from the Big East tournament at the hands of the Syracuse Orange, 127-117.

Louisville

No team has had a more successful and impressive finish to the regular season than the Louisville Cardinals (28-5, 16-2) who clinched the regular season Big East championship with wins over Seton Hall and West Virginia to enter the Big East tournament as the No. 1 seed.

The Cardinals looked impressive as they dominated the Providence Friars 73-55 in the quarterfinals, and proceeded to easily dispatch the Villanova Wildcats 69-55 the next day. Finally, they met a weary Syracuse Orange team on Saturday in the Big East Championship game. The Cardinals held off the Orange 76-66 thanks largely to a strong team performance, highlighted by 15 points from freshman forward Samardo Samuels, as well as 13 points and 10 rebounds from junior swingman Earl Clark. Louisville roared to the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, proving its mettle in winning both the regular season and Big East tournament championship in a year when the Big East was widely recognized as the nation’s most competitive conference. The Cardinals will play 16th-seeded Morehead State at 7:10 p.m. tonight.

Syracuse

After a strong finish to the regular season with wins over conference rivals Rutgers and No. 15 Marquette, Syracuse (26-9, 11-7) entered the Big East tournament as a six seed. After disposing of the Seton Hall Pirates 89-74, the Orange advanced to face third-seeded Connecticut in the quarterfinals. The matchup proved to be an epic and historic game, stretching into six overtimes before the Orange finally edged out the Huskies 127-117. The instant classic was highlighted by a heroic performance by sophomore guard Jonny Flynn, who played 67 of the possible 70 minutes. Syracuse didn’t have much time to rest, as they faced off with West Virginia in the semifinals the very next day. This time, the Orange only needed one overtime to secure a victory, beating the Mountaineers 74-69. Syracuse’s magic run came to a screeching halt, however, as they were defeated 76-66 by the top-seeded Louisville Cardinals in the Big East Championship game. Syracuse fans may have found some solace in the fact that Jonny Flynn was presented with David R. Gavitt Trophy after the game as the tournament’s most outstanding player. The Orange enter the NCAA tournament as a No. 3 seed and prepare to face 14th-seeded Stephen F. Austin this afternoon at 12:15 p.m.

Pittsburgh

After a statement win over conference-rival Connecticut to end the regular season, its second victory over the Huskies this year, the Pittsburgh Panthers looked to defend their Big East tournament title as they entered the Big East tournament as the No. 2 seed with an impressive 15-3 conference record, going 28-4 overall.

Their hopes for a conference title were thwarted early in the tournament, however, as they fell to 7th-seeded West Virginia 74-60 in a surprising upset. Sophomore forward DeJuan Blair, the Big East’s co-player of the year, found himself in foul trouble for much of the game, mustering only 14 points and five rebounds before fouling out with 1:17 left in the game. The Mountaineers shot 44.2 percent from the field, led by a career-high 20 points from freshman forward Devin Ebanks and 18 points from senior guard Alex Ruoff. The Panthers look to rebound from the disappointing loss as one of the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. They face off against 16th-seeded East Tennessee State today at 2:55 p.m.

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