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WASHINGTON (AP) — If you're one of the college basketball fans who can't wait for the Big East breakup to be final, hang on. You'll have to wait for the Final Four.
Syracuse and Marquette both won their East Regional semifinal games Thursday night and that means the Big East will have a team in Atlanta next week. It will be the fourth straight season the conference that changed the landscape of college basketball over the last three-plus decades will have a Final Four team.
Oh yeah, Louisville, the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament and a Final Four team last season, is still alive with the Cardinals playing Oregon on Friday in the round of 16.
"It will be different than the Big East tournament," Syracuse guard Michael Carter-Williams said after scoring 24 points in the 61-50 victory over top-seeded Indiana. "It will definitely feel familiar with different refs and a neutral court, but we'll see them again."
Marquette won the only meeting between the teams this season, 74-71 on Feb. 25 — the middle game of the Orange's three-game losing streak.
This one will be in the Verizon Center — where Georgetown of the Big East plays its home game — and there will be plenty of familiar faces on hand. Hall of Fame coach John Thompson, who led Georgetown to the 1984 national championship, is doing analysis on radio. Bill Raftery, the former Seton Hall coach who made Big Monday big with his classic one-liners, is doing the color commentary on CBS.
The Big East has had 18 Final Four teams in its 33 years of competition, including six in the last seven seasons with five different schools.
This NCAA tournament started horribly for the Big East.
On the first weekend, five teams — Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Cincinnati and Villanova — were gone from the tournament. That left Syracuse, Marquette and Louisville, and the first two of those certainly did their job.