AP Preview - Syracuse Meets Marquette in NCAA Third Round

 CLEVELAND (AP) -- His voice hoarse, his eyes moist, Buzz Williams took a reflective 9-minute, 27-second chronicle of his career that not even CBS could have interrupted with a TV timeout.

He recounted all the steps: Swiping university stationary to type resumes; begging for a loan to get to the Final Four so he could hand out resumes in a hotel lobby; sleeping in a U-Haul; dreams of becoming a coach at Navarro College.

He wiped his eyes and there was a catch in his throat when he talked about the day he received his college diploma.

Like a kid counting down to Christmas, Williams has kept track of his number of days at Marquette: 1,075 and going.

"I've told everybody I'm living the dream," Williams said Saturday.

Williams lives for the moment, loves his numbers. He rattles off stats, dates of milestone events, and is peculiar with offbeat start times for practices and drills like a real life Raymond Babbitt.

"I try to temper that because it comes across like I'm auditioning for 'Rain Man,' he said.

He never did make it as head coach at Navarro after his starting his career there as a student assistant coach. But eight stops later, Williams has left the moving trucks behind and has Marquette parked in the third round of the NCAA tournament.

Williams soaked up the moment after the Golden Eagles (21-14) beat Xavier to advance in the NCAA tournament.

He has a more familiar scouting report for Sunday's game: Big East rival Syracuse (27-7). The 11th-seeded Golden Eagles beat the third-seeded Orange 76-70 on Jan. 29 and believes his team can do it again.

"There's some preparation that's already taken place in a quick turnaround that you don't have to go back and redo," Williams said.

Good thing. Big East vs. Big East this early in the East region is a rarity.

Connecticut and Cincinnati played Saturday, the first time in NCAA tournament history an intraconference game has been played before the round of 16.

With 11 teams in the 68-team field, this type of rematch was bound to happen.

But so soon?

Williams naturally talked about "S-curves" and the mathematical probabilities of keeping two Big East teams away from each other the opening weekend. When he walked out of Madison Square Garden after the Golden Eagles lost to Louisville in the Big East tournament, Williams told an assistant he was thankful he didn't have to prepare a scouting report for a conference team until December.

Try nine days later.

"I can't say I'd rather play any other team," Marquette forward Jimmy Butler said.

The Orange, who advanced with a 77-60 win over Indiana State, are happy for second chance at knocking off a conference rival when it matters most.

"Everybody knows it's hard to beat a Big East team twice in a season," guard Scoop Jardine said. "Hopefully, we can come out with the win."

The Orange beat NCAA tournament teams Villanova and Georgetown this season after losing to them in the first meeting. They lost to Connecticut in the Big East tournament after defeating the Huskies in the regular season.

Jardine said his left wrist felt fine hours "it went numb" on a hard fall Friday night. He briefly remained in the game, but when he came back to the bench, the junior grimaced in pain when a trainer checked on him. Jardine walked to the postgame interview with his wrist wrapped in ice.

Jardine had 13 points and 13 assists when the teams met the first time. Marquette never trailed in that game and led by as many as 11 points. Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom each hit 3-pointers late in the game with the shot clock a tick away from expiration.

That was final loss of a four-game losing streak for Syracuse.

Syracuse also is intent on making up for last season's disappointing tournament appearance, when the Orange's run as a No. 1 seed ended with a loss to upstart Butler in the round of 16.

"I think in the past, like a Butler team, we overlooked them," Big East defensive player of the year Rick Jackson said. "We thought we were just flat out better than them last year, and they gave us a run for our money."

Unlike his conference counterpart, coach Jim Boeheim shed no tears when he discussed his team. On the Big East rematch: "It is what it is." On improvements since that game: "Our defense has been better."

Here's Buzz Williams on getting an assistant's job at Texas-Arlington.

"I got in the U-Haul and drove to Arlington, had no money, had nowhere to live. I slept in the U-Haul in the parking lot of the athletic office until Monday morning at 8:00. Monday morning at 8:00 I walked in there and I said, 'I'm here.' That's how it all started. So I don't know if you would deem that to be modest or not. But I can tell you that you can't create a story such as that."