Madness: Big East Takes a Beating in NCAA Opener

Even President Barack Obama was letdown by the power conference

Thursday, Mar 18, 2010  |  Updated 10:59 PM PDT
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Greg Monroe #10 of the Georgetown Hoyas reacts after he is called for a foul in the second half against the Ohio Bobcats. The Big East was a Big Bust on the first day of the NCAA tournament.

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The Big East was a Big Bust on the first day of the NCAA tournament -- and there goes your office bracket.

Third-seeded Georgetown? Gone. Six seeds Notre Dame and Marquette? Maybe next year.

The No. 2 seed Villanova Wildcats were the only Big East team to advance on Thursday and they needed overtime to get past mid-major Robert Morris.

Georgetown and Villanova put on a pair of uninspired showings in Providence, R.I. — the Big East's headquarters.

Even President Barack Obama was letdown by the power conference. Guess that's what he gets for opting for the "safe" picks.

Through the first 12 games of the NCAA tournament Thursday, Obama has correctly predicted all but three results in his bracket. But all three losses were by teams in the Big East: Georgetown, Notre Dame and Marquette.

The deepest — perhaps most talented — conference in basketball was smacked around by teams from the Mid-American Conference, Colonial Athletic Association, and the Pac-10.

"It doesn't surprise me, it doesn't," Ohio coach John Groce said. "There's just a lot of good teams out there, a lot of good players, a lot of good coaches."

Groce led his 14th-seeded Bobcats to the biggest upset of the day when they handled the Hoyas from start-to-finish in a 97-83 win. They led by as many as 19 points against a maddening Georgetown team that had defeated two NCAA tournament No. 1 seeds this year in Syracuse and Duke.

The Hoyas said all the right things after the game about how every team in the tournament is a threat to win. Still, Georgetown had to be stunned it was heading home while a team they likely had no knowledge of on Selection Sunday was still playing. All the national TV appearances and recruiting perks of playing in the Big East were left meaningless.

"They just had all the answers," Georgetown coach John Thompson said.

There was disappointment all around the Big East.

— Quincy Pondexter drove for a tiebreaking bank shot with 1.7 seconds left to lift 11th-seeded Washington past Marquette.

— Old Dominion held on for a 51-50 victory over Notre Dame for its first NCAA tournament win since 1995.

The Wildcats survived a scare against Northeast Conference champion Robert Morris. Karon Abraham scored 23 points for the Colonials which appeared on the brink of becoming only the fifth No. 15 seed to beat a No. 2 and the first since 2001.

"I think sometimes if you get into a game like that and get embarrassed with a team like that or them outplaying you, that's going to lose the game for you," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "If you allow your ego to get involved in a game like that, you're going to get beat."

It's not over yet for the conference that placed two teams (Villanova, Connecticut) in last year's Final Four. No. 1 seed Syracuse, No. 2 seed West Virginia, No. 3 Pittsburgh and No. 9 Louisville can salvage a successful start on Friday.

The Big East is still the only conference to place three teams in the Final Four.

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