Syracuse guard Michael Carter-Williams celebrates during Thursday’s win against Indiana, which put the fourth-seeded Orange into the Elite 8.
WASHINGTON — The conference that is disintegrating due to the realignment chaos is assured of having a team in the Final Four.
Big East mates Syracuse and Marquette square off today in Washington D.C. in the East Regional final, marking the first time since 2009 that teams from the same conference will compete for a Final Four berth. The fourth-seeded Orange dominated top-seeded Indiana on Thursday while third-seeded Marquette thrashed second-seeded Miami.
The Golden Eagles defeated Syracuse 74-71 on Feb. 25 in the lone regular-season meeting. Marquette squeezed past Davidson and Butler in its first two NCAA Tournament games, which made the rout of the Hurricanes particularly impressive.
“They dominated a team that won the regular-season ACC and the ACC tournament,” Orange coach Jim Boeheim said. “Tremendous team and Marquette dominated the game.”
Syracuse frustrated Indiana 61-50 after posting earlier tournament victories over Montana and California. Golden Eagles junior guard Vander Blue knows his team will be the underdog.
“We’re used to people not giving us credit, saying we were no good,” Blue said. “If you were to look at our roster, no one would expect us to be an Elite Eight team.” The last time conference foes battled for a Final Four spot also featured two Big East squads — Villanova defeating Pittsburgh.
ABOUT MARQUETTE (26-8): The Golden Eagles are led by Blue, but feature a wealth of contributors who are capable of stepping up at any time. Junior forward Jamil Wilson had 16 points and eight rebounds against Miami, while Blue and junior reserve forward Davante Gardner contributed 14 points apiece. In fact, Gardner’s 11.4 average is second on the squad behind Blue’s 14.8.
Wilson averages 9.9 points, senior guard Junior Cadougan averages 8.6 and senior wing Trent Lockett contributes 7.2 points and a team-best 5.1 rebounds. A blue-collar mentality sometimes leads to Marquette being overshadowed by more talented teams.
“We want to keep being the hunters,” Blue said. “We don’t want to be the hunted.”
ABOUT SYRACUSE (29-9): Sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams had a spectacular game against Indiana with a career-best 24 points to go with six rebounds and four steals.
“This was the best he’s played all year,” Boeheim said. “He was tremendous. He was the difference in the game on offense, clearly.”
Williams ranks fourth on the Orange at 12.1 points per game while averaging a team-best 7.5 assists. He has 104 steals, one of three players nationally with 100 or more. Junior forward C.J. Fair averages a team-high 14.4 points and also grabs a team-leading seven rebounds per game, while senior guard Brandon Triche (13.8) and senior forward James Southerland (13.4) also score in double digits.
TIP-INS: Gardner scored 26 points in Marquette’s February win over the Orange. Fair scored 20 to lead Syracuse ... Syracuse is attempting to reach the Final Four for the first time since the Carmelo Anthony-led team won the 2003 national title ... Marquette is also vying to return to the Final Four for the first time since 2003, when Dwyane Wade was the team’s star player.
Wichita State vs. Ohio State
LOS ANGELES — Ohio State has become accustomed to coming up with critical shots late in the NCAA Tournament in its quest for a second consecutive Final Four. Wichita State has simply played big as it pursues a regional final victory for the second time in school history.
The teams meet for the first time since 1963 today in Los Angeles for the right to represent the West Region in the Final Four.
For the second straight game, Ohio State drained a 3-pointer in the waning seconds to break a tie and advance.
After Ohio State used a 3-pointer from Aaron Craft to break Iowa State’s heart on Sunday, LaQuinton Ross hit one to sink Arizona on Thursday. The Buckeyes will put their 11-game winning streak on the line against the Shockers, who followed their upset win over top-seeded Gonzaga last Saturday with an impressive victory over La Salle on Thursday.
ABOUT WICHITA STATE (29-8): Carl Hall dominated the undersized Explorers inside, hitting his first five shots and scoring 14 of his 16 points inside the paint. The Shockers recorded 40 points
in the paint against La Salle and took 43 shots inside, the most such attempts for a team in this tournament.
Wichita State’s tournament opponents — Pittsburgh, Gonzaga and La Salle — each entered their games with the Shockers shooting at least 45 percent, but the teams combined to shoot 35.5 percent against the Missouri Valley Conference’s top-ranked field-goal percentage defense.
ABOUT OHIO STATE (29-7): Unlike the play that left Craft open for a 3-pointer against the Cyclones, the pivotal moment in the win Thursday came when Arizona overcommitted to the Buckeyes’ point guard.
“It was similar to the play we ran last game,” Ross said. “We like to get the (big men) on a pick-and-roll. It so happened they messed up the switch there and I was able to knock down the shot.”
Perhaps one of the biggest turnarounds the team has made lately is beyond the arc. In three NCAA Tournament games, Ohio State is a combined 23-for-46 from the 3-point line after shooting 35.9 percent over its first 33 contests.
TIP-INS: Craft and Ross are two of only four players in this tournament to make a potential game-tying or go-ahead field goal in the final 10 seconds of a game ... Wichita State, one win shy of its first 30-win season, is seeking its first Final Four since 1965 ... The Buckeyes are 8-2 all-time as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.