NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) – The second week of the NCAA tournament will be sprinkled with the typical blend of favorites and underdogs, the familiar and the obscure, with a notable lack of Big East flavor in that mix.
The conference that placed a record 11 teams into the 64-team field ended up with only two — Marquette and UConn — among the last 16.
“The Big East is overrated and after Notre Dame loses tonight, it’s just going to be another feather in my cap,” said opinionated analyst Charles Barkley, a few minutes before the second-seeded Irish took the court against No. 10 Florida State.
Notre Dame lost 71-57.
The Irish didn’t look anything like the team that had won 13 of its previous 15 games. Big East player of the year Ben Hansbrough was stifled most of the night by the Seminoles’ defense, scoring 18 on 5-of-13 shooting before fouling out with 3:19 left. Florida State fans taunted him with chants of “Overrated!” as he left the floor.
“You know how when your friend tried to set you up with a girl and he said she has a good personality? That’s not good,” Barkley told the New York Post. “The Big East has a good personality.”
Marquette advanced to the round of 16 at the expense of their Big East brethren Syracuse. The Golden Eagles will play No. 2 seed North Carolina in the East regional semifinals Friday in Newark, N.J.
Marquette was the most scrutinized Big East team to make the tournament. With 14 losses and a 9-9 record in conference play, the Golden Eagles were a shaky pick when the brackets were announced.
“When the Big East got 11 teams in, people thought they would dominate the tournament,” said Barkley. “I didn’t, but people thought I was just saying, ‘Big Least’ to say it.”
The other survivor, No. 3 Connecticut, will face off against No. 2 San Diego State this week — one program with tons of history against another with virtually none.
UConn showed no ill effects from its five-game-in-five-night run to the Big East Conference championship. Jim Calhoun’s Huskies won their two games by an average of 20, including a 69-58 victory over conference rival Cincinnati.
San Diego State is coached by Steve Fisher, he of Fab Five fame with Michigan a few decades back. His new program won its first two NCAA tournament games this weekend. The Aztecs and BYU gave the Mountain West the same number of teams in the final 16 as the Big East.
Will Marquette or UConn make it to the round of 8? Make your prediction in the comments below…
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