PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – Coming into the NCAA tournament the conversation was whether or not the Big East Conference would get 11 teams into the tournament. When the tournament started, the talk was how dominant the conference would be.
As it turned out after the first weekend, the Big East was a big bust. The conference has only two teams in the Sweet 16 .
The second week of the NCAA tournament will be sprinkled with the typical blend of favorites and underdogs, the familiar and the obscure.
“The Big East is overrated and after Notre Dame loses tonight, it’s just going to be another feather in my cap,” said analyst Charles Barkley, a few minutes before the second-seeded Irish took the court against No. 10 Florida State.
Notre Dame lost 71-57.
Joining FSU among the double digits seeds to advance were a pair of No. 11 seeds, Marquette and Virginia Commonwealth.
Marquette defeated Big East rival Syracuse to set up a meeting with North Carolina. VCU will play Florida State in the first 10 vs. 11 matchup in tournament history.
There was a 12 seed, Richmond — a program that made its name by pulling upsets in the ’80s and ’90s and is at it once again. The Spiders will be the underdogs when they play the Kansas Jayhawks.
Speaking of players, it’s hard to take your eyes off Jimmer Fredette of Brigham Young. He’s the nation’s top scorer and scored 66 points over two games to lead the Cougars to the regional semifinals for the first time in 30 years.
Third-seeded BYU will play No. 2 seed Florida in the Southeast Regional. It’s a rematch of their first-round game last year, won 99-92 by BYU.
In the other Southeast game, it will be No. 8 Butler vs. No. 4 Wisconsin. The Bulldogs beat top-seeded Pittsburgh, and are still in line to repeat their magical run to the national final.
No. 1 Duke will play No. 5 Arizona, back in the tournament after missing one season following a record stretch of 25 straight appearances.
The other West game pits No. 3 Connecticut against No. 2 San Diego State — 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 Tournament 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 Sweet 16 as the Big East.
Such is life in America’s biggest office pool.