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Whether Utah State's Blue Bull mascot will also make it to Boise to square off with the Marquette Golden Eagle is still an unknown; the bull got in a fight with New Mexico State's cowboy at the conference tournament and was suspended for the final.
It should be interesting to see if there's any long-term effect from the six-overtime classic that Syracuse, third seed in the South, and UConn put on in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament -- just another wonderful chapter in that conference's storied history.
Founded in 1979, the Big East enjoyed all kinds of success in the early years. Yet football came into the mix and the league found itself on the verge of extinction only six years ago when Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech bailed for the ACC and a better situation on the gridiron.
The Big East went out and recruited Louisville, among other teams, and this year had five of the top 12 spots on the sport's biggest stage (Villanova was also a No. 3)
Who's laughing now?
"It just gives you an idea, if theoretically half the top teams in America are coming out of one conference, how difficult it was for anybody," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said.
Although the Big East had no problem with numbers, the Southeastern Conference placed only three teams in the tournament -- the third coming only because Mississippi State won the conference tournament and earned the automatic bid.
That result, plus Southern California's championship in the Pac-10 tournament, cost a couple of bubble teams spots among in the 65.
Among the last teams to make it were: Wisconsin, a 12th seed in the East; Maryland, a surprisingly high 10th seed in the Midwest; and Dayton, one of only four teams from small conferences to earn an at-large bid.
The so-called mid-major conferences have gone from nine at-large bids in 2005 to four this year. Besides St. Mary's, Creighton got left out, as did New Mexico, UNLV and San Diego State, all from the Mountain West.
"We look at teams, we don't use a label," said Mike Slive, chairman of the selection committee. "It's not about mid-major teams and major teams. It's about teams. In the final analysis, it's about who you play, where you play and how you do. It's about teams, not about conferences."
Penn State also got left out. The Nittany Lions had the 311th-ranked non-conference strength of schedule -- certainly not a help in the selection group's meeting room.
"We tried to deliver a message that it's the entire body of work," Slive said. "It starts in November and December and goes through the conference tournament."
Also absent will be Indiana and Kentucky -- the first time both traditional powerhouses have been missing in the tournament since 1979.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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