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It may come down to Big East topping itself

DAYTON, Ohio – About the NCAA Tournament – isn’t it nice of the Big East to admit 11 other teams to its Sweet 16 Invitational?

We could list the Big East teams still alive, but then, you might not have that much time. Suffice it to say March has never seen anything like it. No conference ever had five members advance past the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

But this is what happens when a conference seemingly has nearly as many members as the United Nations, and lots of them have enough talent to sink a canoe. The league was that good.

“It gets even harder to live up to those standards,” Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon said. “I think we’re going about it the right way.”

Big East victory the past four days came in every variety. One minute, Connecticut would be rolling by 56 points and Syracuse would be outscoring Arizona State 31-8 in the paint.

The next, Pittsburgh and Villanova and Louisville would be fighting for their lives against East Tennessee State and American and Siena.

What was it Louisville coach Rick Pitino said to his Cardinals when Siena took a late 63-59 lead and the world seemed ready to end?

“We play in the Big East for a reason – to prepare us for these moments.”

In his news conference afterward, Pitino mentioned, “It prepares you for everything. That’s what makes the Big East so great.”

Only Marquette and West Virginia fell. Presumably, they will be allowed to stay in the league.

Anything else we know, with 49 teams now gone?

It was the usual energetic weekend. Not many startling upsets – all but two of the 16 top-seeded teams advanced – but still lively.

Validation . . .

Arizona went from defending its tournament invitation to the round of 16.

Condemnation . . .

The body flip of Oklahoma star Blake Griffin by Morgan State’s Ameer Ali would have been praised only in a judo tournament.

Elimination . . .

The Big East lived up to its rep. The ACC did not. By Sunday, only the Tobacco Road twins Duke and North Carolina were left.

Boston College and Clemson each lost to No. 10 seeds, and Wake Forest – once upon a time ranked No. 1 in the country – had the signature moment of suffering, gazing up at the scoreboard to find itself behind Cleveland State 29-12.

Frustration . . .

Lousy free-throw shooting can kill an upset faster than hail can kill a picnic. Western Kentucky will always wonder what could have been without that 5-for-14 disaster from the line against Gonzaga, and East Tennessee will forever mourn that 12-for-24 against Pittsburgh.

Poise in defeat . . .

Siena’s Ronald Moore went 40 minutes into the teeth of the Louisville press Sunday and had only two turnovers to go with 10 assists.

And attitude adjustment . . .

Coaches understand that since the endless television timeouts now provide more rest than a resort spa, the starters don’t need to sit much.

Siena used its bench only 17 minutes in the win over Ohio State that went two overtimes, Temple and Arizona State used their reserves only 22 minutes combined.

USC had three different players go 40 minutes each against Boston College. Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel did not sub for a starter in the second half until the last 18 seconds against Michigan.

“Why didn’t I?” he asked afterward. “We wanted to win.”

There were repeats . . .

Jim Calhoun missed a Connecticut game with a trip to the hospital. Just like he did in 1999 and 2004 when he won national championships. His new favorite phrase is deja vu.

Remakes . . .

Gonzaga’s Demetri Goodson going full court, zig-zagging through the Western Kentucky defenders to score a winning layup looked like a modern update of BYU’s Danny Ainge doing the same thing to Notre Dame in 1981. Only with longer pants.

Reminders . . .

The longer Arizona lasts, the more interim coach Russ Pennell looks like Steve Fisher of Michigan in 1989, having a team land in his lap and taking it to the national championship.

After all that, here comes a Sweet 16 that is more Big East than a Reese’s Cup is peanut butter.

But the Big East teams will fall, if only because sooner or later, they’ll have to start playing one another.

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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