Marquette

After an intense up-and-down battle, Marquette found itself locked in a 79-79 tie with Missouri with only 5.5 seconds to play as Mizzou freshman Kim English – benched for the majority of the second half – came to the line to take injured J.T. Tiller’s free throws. Having squandered an earlier lead, Marquette’s hopes for a Sweet 16 berth hung on the outcome of English’s shooting under pressure. Five-and-a-half seconds short of having survived Mizzou’s “40 Minutes of Hell,” those last few ticks proved the most hellish of all as English – a 65 percent free-throw shooter entering the tournament – sank both of his attempts to put Missouri up and into the round of 16. English, who exploded for 15 points in a four-and-a-half minute stretch in the first half to spark Mizzou’s comeback from six down to 16 up on the Warriors, rode out most of the second frame on the bench. He then got the nod when Tiller appeared shaken up after being fouled. Another pair of free throws at the bitter end made the final 83-79, sending Marquette home with a 25-10 mark for the season.

Villanova

The Wildcats are on the prowl in the East, having downed UCLA by 20 points on Saturday, 89-69. With former coach Rollie Massimino in attendance, Villanova allowed itself its fourth trip to the Sweet 16 in the past five years while shattering the Bruins’ dreams of a fourth consecutive Final Four bid. Playing in Philadelphia, the Wildcats treated a vocal and heavily partisan home crowd to a victory that was never really in doubt. Beginning with a 19-2 run, Villanova already led UCLA 28-11 before the game was 10 minutes old. The Bruins slowed the immediate bleeding with a timeout, but were unable to regain much ground over the rest of the contest. Villanova then blew by Duke in the Sweet 16 last night, scoring 51 points in the second half to rout the Blue Devils 77-54. The Wildcats will square off tomorrow against top-seeded Big East rival Pittsburgh in the Elite Eight.

UConn

The top seed in the West region and looking to prove it, UConn dismantled Texas A&M on Saturday with a 92-66 drubbing. The ninth-seeded Aggies learned the hard way that the Huskies are top dogs in the region as the Connecticut players scored their first 10 points in 2:36 and continued to try to outdo themselves in putting up gaudy statistics from there, expanding their lead to as much as 24 and never letting it shrink to less than 14 from then on. UConn seniors A.J. Price and Jeff Adrien dropped 50 points on A&M between them, with Price accounting for 27 and Adrien 23. The foul trouble that limited stellar center Hasheem Thabeet’s play served as the only obstacle to UConn’s second installment of its quest to win the West. After a sluggish first half in the Sweet 16, the Huskies used a big second half by Thabeet to make their third Regional final in six years. Thabeet scored Connecticut’s first eight points in the second half, and ended with 15 points and 15 rebounds on the day. Next up for the Huskies is Missouri, which outran Memphis to a 102-91 victory last night.

Louisville

After soaring to a Big East title for both the regular season and conference tournament, the Louisville Cardinals entered the NCAA tournament as the No. 1 overall seed. Their march to the Final Four began with a 74-54 drubbing of No. 16 seed Morehead State, winners of the play-in game. Freshman forward Samardo Samuels netted 15 points, and star senior forward Terrence Williams added 13 points and nine rebounds for the Cardinals. Louisville went on to survive a scare on Sunday against No. 9 seed Siena, escaping with 79-72 victory, improving their overall record to 30-5, thanks largely to another strong performance by Williams. Faced with a potential upset, Williams fueled the Cardinals with 24 points and 15 rebounds, helping Louisville advance to face No. 12 seed Arizona in the Sweet 16 today. Arizona, one of the last teams to grab a NCAA tournament bid, stands as the only double-digit seed to qualify for the Sweet 16.

Syracuse

any expected Syracuse to be exhausted after its heroic run to the Big East tournament finals, especially after the crushing loss to Louisville in the championship game. However, the No. 3 Orange have continued their strong play, using their stifling defense to easily dispatch No.14 Stephen F. Austin University 59-44 last Friday. Sophomore guard Jonny Flynn, who was named Most Outstanding Player for the Big East tournament, scored 16 points for Syracuse in his NCAA tournament debut. The Orange proceeded to roll over No. 6 seed Arizona State in the second round, 78-67, shooting 55 percent from the floor. Syracuse’s offense was clicking on all cylinders as all five starters reached double digits in points. The Orange advanced to the Sweet 16, where they will play star sophomore forward Blake Griffin and the No. 2 seed Oklahoma today.

Pittsburgh

Despite an early exit from the Big East tournament, the Pittsburgh Panthers entered the NCAA tournament as one of three No. 1 seeds from the Big East. Their first-round game against No. 16 East Tennessee State, however, was a surprisingly close match as the Panthers fended off Buccaneers 72-62. The victory was due largely to yet another mammoth performance by sophomore center DeJuan Blair, Big East Co-Player of the Year. Blair dominated down low, scoring 27 points and grabbing 16 rebounds to overcome a plethora of Pittsburgh turnovers, especially in the first half. The Panthers, who now stand at 30-4 overall, managed yet another close victory as they edged No. 8 Oklahoma State 84-76 in the second round, to advance to the Sweet 16. Blair only scored 10 points but he snagged 17 rebounds. He was helped by senior guard Sam Young who fueled the Pittsburgh win with 32 points of his own. The Panthers outlasted No. 4 Xavier of the Atlantic 10 Thursday night by a score of 60-55. Down 54-52 with 1:50 remaining in the game, senior guard Levance Fields nailed a three to give the Panthers the lead, which they would never relinquish. It will be the first trip to the regional finals for Head Coach Jamie Dixon in his six years with the Panthers. Pittsburgh will face Villanova in an all-Big East affair for a trip to the Final Four.

Notre Dame

After a disappointing regular season, Notre Dame is making the most of its NIT bid. Wednesday night, the Fighting Irish survived a late Kentucky rally and held off the Wildcats for a 77-67 victory. The status of Kentucky Coach Billy Gillispie, who is rumored to be on the hot seat, became a big point of postgame discussion, but for the Irish, it’s all about advancing. Notre Dame will face Penn State in a Tuesday night NIT semifinal at Madison Square Garden, with two victories separating the Fighting Irish from at least some redemption for a season of wasted potential.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.