Marquette Wire

Men’s Big East Notebook

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Pitino remains perfect against Donovan as Cards go to New Orleans

When the brackets came out, Louisville was a trendy upset pick. The first match-up of the tournament for the Cardinals was against an experienced Davidson team.

Most people projected they would have to face Long Beach State in the third round. The 49ers played the toughest nonconference schedule in the country and many people did not think Louisville would get out of the first weekend.

For the second consecutive season, people underestimated the Big East Tournament champion. Louisville got past the second and third rounds and beat top-seeded Michigan State in impressive fashion. The Cardinals ran away from the Spartans, winning 57-44, and Rick Pitino improved 10-0 as a head coach in Sweet 16 games.

Louisville then won the West Region by defeating Florida 72-68 Saturday. Pitino joined former Kansas and current North Carolina head coach Roy Williams and former Kansas State and Utah coach Jack Gardner as the third coach to lead two teams to multiple Final Four appearances.

The Cardinals have done their damage on the defensive end all season, as Louisville is fourth in the country in field goal percentage defense, allowing teams to shoot 38 percent from the floor. Pitino’s team defense was on full display over the weekend.

Louisville held Michigan State to 44 points and a 28.6 field goal percentage, both the worst stats in those categories by a Spartan team in an NCAA Tournament game.

Florida started Saturday’s matchup 12-of-17 from the floor including 7-of-10 from three point range. Pitino then changed his defense from zone to man-to-man, and from that point on, the Gators went 11-of-29 from the floor and hit just one of their final nine three point attempts.

For the third consecutive season, the Big East Tournament Champion advanced to Final Four, with Louisville making its first trip since 2005.

Syracuse ends successful season while Bearcats look for ‘Elite’ status again (? change in title wording)

Syracuse’s Elite Eight run may seem like a disappointment based on the overall success of its season, but Jim Boeheim did a fantastic job all season keeping his players on task.

The season began with allegations against associate head coach Bernie Fine, who was accused of molesting ball boys for roughly 20 years. Boeheim denied any knowledge of the incidents and it was quickly swept under the rug.

In January, Big East Defensive Player of the Year Fab Melo was suspended for three games, and the Orange lost their first game of the season at Notre Dame in Melo’s absence.

Boeheim was able to connect with all of his players and keep their focus during times of uncertainty, leading Syracuse to the Big East regular season title by three games over Marquette.

Melo’s absence was felt in the NCAA Tournament, but the Orange got bounced by an excellent Ohio State team that may have beaten Syracuse even with Melo.

Ohio State had defeated another Big East team on its way to the Final Four, beating Cincinnati in the Sweet 16. The Bearcats’ season came to an end with an 81-66 loss to the in-state rival Buckeyes.

Many criticized Cincinnati when it hired Mick Cronin and let former Bob Huggins assistant Andy Kennedy walk after a valiant effort in his lone season as the head man. In Cronin’s sixth season, it looks like the Bearcats are returning to the prominence that left with Huggins.

After a pair of losing seasons in Cronin’s first two tenures, the Bearcats have won 26 games in each of their last two seasons. The Bearcats made the Big East Tournament final this season and leading scorer Sean Kilpatrick is returning for another season. Cronin may finally have the talent to lead his alma mater back to the top next season.

Game of the Week

Louisville vs. Kentucky, Mar. 31

The two schools are about a 90-minute drive from each other, and neither city has a professional sports team to cheer for. Those are just two reasons why this rivalry is so heated.

The Cardinals and Wildcats met in Lexington, Ky., on New Year’s Eve and Kentucky won 69-62. The Cardinals held the Wildcats to 29 percent shooting in that game and will need a repeat defensive performance to have a chance.

Player of the Week

Chane Behanan, freshman forward, Louisville, #24

16.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 65 percent field goal percentage

http://www.zimbio.com/photos/Chane+Behanan/South+Florida+v+Louisville/yZO7I7LSZf4

Behanan is not the best player on the Louisville roster, but he was the most consistent over the weekend. The Cincinnati native was the primary defender on Michigan State All-American Draymond Green, holding him to just 5-of-16 shooting from the floor. Behanan was also efficient on the offensive end in both games, and his jumper against Florida was the game-winning bucket to send Louisville to New Orleans.

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