Friday, November 17, 2017
Sports

Current Big East finishing with bang in NCAA

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With the Big East as we know it coming to an end, Marquette coach Buzz Williams might have figured he had seen the last of Syracuse's zone for a while.

He has a 290-pound junior on his bench who can't wait to face it again.

"I know about spacing," Davante Gardner said Friday. "So they'll change it up and try to lock me down."

It takes a bit of bravado for a backup forward to have a "bring it on" attitude over Syracuse's 2-3 fortress, especially after the way coach Jim Boeheim's team dominated No. 1 seed Indiana on Thursday.

But Gardner had a standout game against the zone with a career-high 26 points in Marquette's 74-71 win over Syracuse on Feb. 25 in Milwaukee and sounded confident going into tonight's East final against the Orange in Washington.

"I love playing against athletic guys," Gardner said. "Because they think they can just stop me. But I use my weight to push them around."

"He got a lot of offensive rebounds, they found him in the lane, and he made good plays," Boeheim said. "To me he's a very good player down there, and we obviously have to do better with him, for sure."

The fourth-seeded Orange (29-9) is headed to the ACC after this season. The third-seeded Golden Eagles (26-8) are part of the "Catholic 7" that is taking the Big East name and leaving behind the current Big East's football-playing schools, including USF.

Upsets? What Upsets?: During Ohio State's journey to the Final Four last season, Aaron Craft learned the importance of focusing on the next 40 minutes, not the three-week trip.

So Craft didn't realize the highest seeds in the West Region in Los Angeles were dropping like dominoes until this week. He purposely didn't learn much about ninth-seeded Wichita State until Thursday, when the Buckeyes found out they're facing the Shockers today in the region final for another Final Four ticket.

"We watch all the games," said Craft, OSU's star point guard. "Obviously we're basketball fans, but I kept saying, 'Where is this team? Which bracket is this in? What is that?' It wasn't until after we played Iowa State (in the Buckeyes' second game) that I realized our bracket was being destroyed number-wise and really realizing how tough every team was."

No, the Shockers can't match Ohio State's financial resources or alumni base. But coming off of Thursday's 72-58 victory over No. 13 seed La Salle, Wichita State has everything else necessary to play with the Buckeyes. Why not — after all, the Shockers eliminated No. 1 seed Gonzaga in the Round of 32.

"What I love is the fact they're not really bouncing off the wall," coach Gregg Marshall said of Wichita State's first Elite Eight since 1981. "They seem to be legitimately unsatisfied thus far."

Conference pride: Maybe the women's Spokane, Wash., Region should be renamed the Pac-12 vs. SEC challenge.

West Coast powers Stanford and California on one side. Southern stalwarts Georgia and LSU on the other.

Since the brackets for the women's NCAA Tournament were released, it has been expected that No. 1 seed Stanford and No. 2 California would meet for the third time this season for a spot in the Final Four. It's up to fourth-seeded Georgia, Stanford's foe tonight, and No. 6 LSU to stop that.

Georgia had another factor to deal with aside from an elite Cardinal program. The Bulldogs also played in Spokane, Wash., for the first two rounds and decided to stay rather than going back to their campus.

In 2010 the Bulldogs won two games in Tempe, Ariz., went home, then returned to Sacramento, Calif., for the region semifinals, where they were routed by Stanford 73-36.

Coach Andy Landers joked his players spent the extra time in Eastern Washington getting registered to vote and taking up residency, but said the decision was smart and beneficial.

"It's been very productive, both academically, basketball-wise and from a rest standpoint. All of those things are important," Landers said.

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