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Original Issue


The Big East set yet another record with 11 bids, but most of those teams will have familiar foes in their way

Think of the Big East as a volume business. It is the only conference in NCAA tournament history to grab three spots in the Final Four (1985). It is the only conference to earn three No. 1 seeds (2009). And on Sunday, Big East teams earned a record 11 berths in the field of 68, breaking the previous mark of eight, which it also held (2006, '08 and '10).

Translating this embarrassment of bracket wealth (the conference has 27% of the at-large berths) into Final Four riches is another matter. It starts with the sprawling, 16-team conference cannibalizing itself: Connecticut, which won the conference tournament by winning five games in five days—thanks largely to guard Kemba Walker, the hottest player in the land—could play Cincinnati in the West Regional's round of 32. Syracuse and Marquette have a chance to square off in the same round of the East Regional.

Villanova and Georgetown stagger into the Dance with a combined nine consecutive losses and could be gone early; if 'Nova can get past George Mason, it's looking at a likely matchup with No. 1 overall seed Ohio State. But the best two teams in the league all year have been Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. The Panthers are seeded No. 1 in the Southeast and the Fighting Irish No. 2 in the Southwest. They could meet in the Final Four, which would make the tournament committee look brilliant.