In the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, Marquette has had to fend off two of the major mid-major squads in college basketball. Butler and Davidson have both made deep runs in recent Tournaments and are annual entrants into the Big Dance. In the parity era, these guys are just as good as the big guys.
Well, almost as good.
Neither team was able to take down the Golden Eagles, who keep riding along with Syracuse for their dying conference's last breath of respect in the East regional.
It wasn't easy. In both games, Vander Blue put Marquette on his back at refused to let them lose. Creating havoc leading Marquette's full-court press, Blue carved Butler apart with his quickness. He scored 19 points in the second half including the game-tying three with 1:25 left. Marquette took the lead, hit their free throws down the stretch, and, though they gave Butler a final look at the basket, came away victorious, 74-72.
While Marquette received all the March Madness attention, Syracuse has walked into the Sweet Sixteen. After demolishing Montana 81-34, 'Cuse built up such a lead in the first half against Cal that they were able to overcome a 12 minute drought without scoring a field goal in the middle of the second and still win by six points.
Both styles are typical of their Big East roots. Marquette is rolling on with their do-or-die guard who has quickly become this March's darling. Boeheim's Orange have moved on as quiet, calm veterans of the game, shrugging of inferior opponents and NCAA investigations alike on their path to the second weekend.
Neither have been as dominant as Louisville — truly embracing the Big East bravado at the moment — or Indiana, for that matter. The Hoosiers, top dogs of the East, take on Temple as Miami clashes with Illinois. Unless Temple pulls off a major upset, the mid major ride for the big boys is over.