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A Big 5 Battle in Buffalo?
St. Joseph's and Villanova are two of the five Philadelphia-area Division I schools that comprise the Big 5, a competition in basketball that since 1955 has helped determine the unofficial champion of Philly hoops. The teams all play each other each season, and two of them could meet again in the third round.
Villanova went 4-0 in the series this year, beating St. Joe's by 30 points in early December. But the Hawks are the hotter team right now, having just won the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament, while Villanova was ousted from the Big East tourney in the first round after winning the regular-season title.
If St. Joe's can get past Connecticut and the Wildcats take care of Milwaukee, it would set up a Saturday meeting for a trip to the Sweet 16.
Can Sparty Make a Run?
Michigan State was ranked second in The Associated Press' preseason Top 25, and the Spartans stayed near the top by going 18-1. But then one injury after another happened, and all of a sudden, those ailments set into motion a major late-season swoon.
MSU lost starters Keith Appling, Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne for multiple games in January and February, and the turmoil contributed greatly to a 5-7 finish to the regular season that included home losses to Illinois and Penn State.
But with the lineup fully intact and everyone looking healthy for the Big Ten tournament, MSU steamrolled through the field and is as dangerous as any team heading into the NCAA tourney.
Is Virginia For Real?
Virginia earned the last of the four No. 1 seeds, locking that up after winning the ACC tournament title on Sunday to go with its regular-season crown. The Cavaliers went 19-2 against their league, helping to make up for a less-than-impressive non-conference performance that included a 35-point loss at Tennessee on Dec. 30.
The Cavaliers had only made the tournament once in the previous six seasons and haven't been a No. 1 seed since the Ralph Sampson days of the early 1980s. They've fended off all challengers in the conference, but will they be able to make it through a field of unfamiliar foes to reach their first Final Four since 1984?