A rare conference game in the NCAA tournament

Cleveland – I’m starting to think that maybe expanding the NCAA Tournament wasn’t a good idea after all.

The format worked great with 65 teams.  It was always fun to see which coaches would be pleading their case after being left out on Selection Sunday night, and usually, but not always,  all one had to do was check that team’s early-season schedule strength to see why.

There was the play-in game Tuesday in Dayton to kick off the madness, then settle into the first and second rounds either on a Thursday-Saturday or Friday-Sunday format and shoot for the Sweet 16.

Now we’ve got the trademarked “First Four” which is the new first round, the old first round is the new second round, and the round of 32 is now the third round.  Got that?

The new TV contract means there are no more boundaries on when games can be played, and that caused perhaps the biggest gripe of all from both fans and the media along balmy Lake Erie:  What in the heck was the NCAA thinking of when it started the “second round”  Cleveland games at 2:37pm instead of 12:07pm, resulting in a clogged schedule that backed up SU and Indiana State  to a 10:37pm tip off, still playing basketball into early Sat. morning and driving fans out of the building in droves well before the final buzzer?

It simply made no sense except to the TV folks who put the money down on the NCAA’s table and are only thinking of the eyeballs they covet to recoup the return on investment, not the convenience and comfort of those attending in person.

Logistics aside, Marquette played athletic, fast, and strong Fri. in its 11-point win over Xavier.  If the Orange look to advance and seek to win their first Sweet 16 game since 2003’s championship season, they’re going to have to play like they did in the second half of the Jan. 29 loss in Milwaukee to their Big East brother, when the ‘Cuse shot a sizzling 68% and played active defense in outscoring the Golden Eagles by five.

Only problem was the Orange struggled mightily in the first half and couldn’t overcome that deficit losing 76-70, a fourth straight loss that sent Orange Nation into a tizzy.

Now, is it time for revenge?

“We know how they play, they know how we play,” C.J.  Fair said after his “quiet” 14-point, 7-rebound performance against Indiana State.  “Whoever wants it more (will win).  If we play our game and our (best) defense, I think we’ll be fine.”

So, after beating Providence in the 1987 national semi-finals for a third time that season, its only other NCAA Tournament “conference game,” SU will take a season split with Marquette to continue its mantra of “Unfinished Business.”

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.