NCAA tournament: A former coach, neighbors, and 11 degrees of Big East
NCAA tournament kicks off Tuesday night with a pair of play-in games. Once we get to Thursday, the NCAA tournament really gets cooking.
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Ten teams from the 32 year-old league were at-large selections to the tourney field Sunday, after the University of Connecticut earned the automatic bid by winning the conference's post-season tournament Saturday night in New York.
Pittsburgh is the only number one tournament seed out of the Big East group and could potentially get to the Final Four in Houston, coming out of the Southeast Region. UConn, by virtue of winning five games in five nights to earn the Big East tournament title, might be on a post-season push or could be too exhausted against Bucknell Thursday.
As for neighbors, Southwest number four seed Louisville, say hello to Morehead State, the region's 13th seed. Back in the Denny Crum days at Louisville, these Kentucky schools used to play each other most every year. The Cardinals, under Rick Pitino, have moved on to the Big East and more of a regional non-conference schedule. Morehead State won the Ohio Valley Conference tournament title to qualify for the 'Big Dance.'
Also getting reacquainted in the NCAA tournament will be Pennsylvania schools Penn State and Temple. The Nittany Lions, a surprise finalist in the Big Ten post-season tournament, meet the Owls, from the Atlantic 10, for the first time since Dec. 5, 2009, when Temple won at home, 45-42.
Finally, in the coaching category, Lon Kruger of UNLV, who had previously coached at Pan American, Florida and Kansas State, meets another former employer in the University of Illinois in the second round of the NCAA Southwest Region.
Don't forget your play-in games this week. They include Alabama-Birmingham playing Clemson Tuesday for the 12th seed in the East Region and the right to play West Virginia on Thursday. Then, on Wednesday night, USC takes on Virginia Commonwealth in an 11th seed game in the Southwest Region for a chance to play Georgetown Friday.