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Marquette-Syracuse means Big East in Final Four

Friday - 3/29/2013, 7:21pm  ET

AP Basketball Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- When two teams from the same conference meet with a Final Four berth at stake, fans think it's great from a rivalry and bragging rights perspective. Conference administrators hear cash registers ringing as NCAA shares are earned.

But coaches? Not a chance.

Saturday's Marquette-Syracuse game will be the ninth time since the field expanded to 64 teams that two schools from the same conference played in the regional final.

The first of those nine times was in 1987. Georgetown, a No. 1 seed just four years from winning a national championship, met Providence, an up-and-coming program under up-and-coming coach Rick Pitino, in the South Regional final.

Georgetown coach John Thompson was asked Friday about playing a team from the same conference with such a big prize at stake.

Three times, he colorfully said that it was a pain in the posterior.

"They know you and you know them. There's no surprise. No coach wants to get somebody from within your league," said Thompson, who is working as a radio analyst. "When they watch tape it's not Georgetown-Villanova or Georgetown-Syracuse, it's Georgetown and you. You're in the film as you're watching it.

"It's hard enough to beat a team you know nothing about. It's a lot harder to beat a team that knows you really well."

Neither Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim nor Marquette coach Buzz Williams described what they were about to face in the same terms as Thompson, but it was easy to tell they weren't thrilled about the opponent.

"They know us, that's a fact, they know how to play against us, they're used to that, and we understand them, what they do," said Boeheim, who is trying to the Orange to the Final Four for the fourth time. "So I think that's all part of playing somebody that you know. They're going to understand what to do and hopefully we will understand what we need to do as well."

Williams, who is a win away from his first Final Four, didn't mince words.

"I don't want to play Syracuse again," he said. "You know them and you know their zone, I know all that. I don't want to play them. I would rather play somebody else. But it's part of having so many good teams in our league that go to the NCAA tournament."

Marquette won the only meeting this season 74-71 after trailing by as many as 11 points. It was their only meeting because of the unbalanced schedule that comes with a 15-team league.

In the past, some of the conference opponents playing for a Final Four berth had met three times before the tournament, and sometimes that had a lot to do with who moved on.

A look at the previous matchups of league foes. Syracuse and Marquette fans can draw their own conclusions what it will mean on Saturday:


VILLANOVA 78, PITTSBURGH 76, Big East, 2009

Scottie Reynolds made a half-court dash for a last-second basket that capped one of the best regional finals of the decade. There were 15 lead changes -- six in the last 6 minutes, Villanova went to the Final Four for the first time since winning it all in 1985. The Wildcats, who won the only meeting between the two, 67-57, went 22 of 23 from the free throw line to beat the top-seeded Panthers.

OKLAHOMA 81, MISSOURI 75, Big 12, 2002

Hollis Price scored 18 points and Aaron McGhee hit a big 3-pointer with 2:14 left to give the Sooners their 12th straight win overall and ninth in a row over Missouri, three that season. The game was physical and tightly called -- 53 fouls were whistled -- and that helped the Sooners, who held Tigers' forward Clarence Gilbert to 1-of-16 shooting.

WISCONSIN 64, PURDUE 60, Big Ten, 2000

The Badgers beat the Boilermakers for the third time in four meetings and another physical, defensive win meant they moved on to their first Final Four appearance since 1941, when they won it all. The loss once again kept Purdue coach Gene Keady from reaching the Final Four. The matchup wasn't one many predicted, as Wisconsin was the region's eighth seed and Purdue was No. 6.

"We faced a team today that probably, if we had faced any other team in America, we might have been better off, except for Michigan State," Keady said that day. "They're a team that was very, very good on D. They knew our weaknesses and they went right after them."

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