After a wild four days, only sixteen teams remain in the hunt for an NCAA Championship - and a quarter of them call the BIG EAST Conference home. Regular season champion Syracuse and runner-up Marquette as well as postseason champion Louisville and runner-up Cincinnati are all on to the tournament's second weekend.
Syracuse, the top seed in the East region, advanced with wins over UNC-Asheville and Kansas State. Reid Forgrave writes on FOXSports.com that the Orange continues to be resilient. The Orange has been greatly helped by the emergence of James Southerland, writes Donna DiTota in the Post-Standard.
Syracuse will face Wisconsin on Thursday night in Boston (7:15pm, CBS). The matchup looks to be a battle of excellent guards.
Joining the Orange in Boston will be Cincinnati, who knocked off Texas and ACC Tournament champion Florida State this weekend. The bruising Bearcats beat the Seminoles in what felt like a fistfight, writes Paul Daugherty in the Cincinnati Enquirer. Bill Koch of the Enquirer notes that is a style forged in the BIG EAST and the Bearcats are quick to point out the benefits of playing in America's toughest basketball conference.
The Bearcats will face Ohio State on Thursday (9:45pm, CBS) and as Eamonn Brennan writes on ESPN.com, there is mutual respect in the cross-state rivalry.
Two BIG EAST teams are also vying to represent the West Region in the Final Four. Louisville, fresh off their BIG EAST tournament championship advanced after beating Davidson and New Mexico. The Cardinals have put a rough finish of the regular season in their rearview mirror, writes C.L. Brown in the Courier-Journal.
As Greg Bishop notes in the New York Times, this Louisville team has been trying for head coach Rick Pitino at times, but now ranks as one of the most enjoyable teams of his career.
The Cardinals face Michigan State Thursday night (7:47pm, TBS). The matchup with the Spartans figures to be one of speed writes Joe Rexrode in the Lansing State Journal.
Joining the Cardinals in Phoenix is Marquette, who has been impressive in wins over BYU and Murray State so far. This is the second consecutive Sweet 16 for Coach Buzz Williams and the Golden Eagles and as Jeff Goodman writes on CBSSports.com, these types of performances no longer come as a surprise. As Mark Cannizzaro writes in the New York Post, there is never a dull moment with Williams.
On the court, BIG EAST Player of the Year Jae Crowder is the difference maker for Marquette. The Golden Eagles face Florida Thursday night (10:17pm, TBS)