The Big East, in its last season as the monster conference of college basketball, is assured of at least one spot in the Final Four.
The Syracuse Orange, fresh off an upset of No. 1 Indiana, opened as small favorites over the Marquette Golden Eagles.
Syracuse, on its way to the ACC next season, and Marquette meet with a Final Four berth on the line in the East Regional final of the NCAA championship tournament Saturday night at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC (4:30 pm ET, CBS).
The early Elite Eight betting odds were listing Syracuse (29-9 SU, 19-15 ATS) at -3.5 points over Marquette (26-8 SU, 14-15 ATS).
The 'Cuse started 18-1 this season, then lost seven of its last 12 regular-season games, causing some concern around Orange Nation. Syracuse then advanced to the Big East Conference tournament title game, where they lost to Louisville.
The fourth-seeded Orange then opened this NCAA tournament by bombing Montana 81-34, then beat Cal 66-60.
Thursday night the 'Cuse got a touch of revenge for the SU team of 1987 when they knocked off top-seeded Indiana 61-50.
On the other side of this match-up MU won six of its last seven games to end the regular season, claiming a share of first place in the Big East Conference standings. But the Eagles then lost their first game in the Big East Conference tournament to Notre Dame.
Then, coming off a week off, Marquette needed a desperate comeback to nip Davidson in its first game in the Big Dance 59-58. And two days later the Eagles had to gut out a tough 74-72 victory over perennial pain-in-the-ass Butler.
But Thursday night MU jumped all over second-seeded Miami, grabbing a 13-point lead at the half and breezing to a 71-61 victory that was nowhere near as close as that final score might indicate.
These teams met once earlier this season, back on Feb. 25, the Warriors coming away with a 74-71 victory in Milwaukee as two-point home dogs. Syracuse led for most of the first 30 minutes of that game, but Marquette went on a 19-4 run to take a lead, then iced the victory by going nine-for-12 from the line in the final minute and a half.
For the game the Warriors made 29 of 35 free throws, while the Orange shot just seven free throws total.
On the season the Orange is now 10-8 SU but still only 7-11 ATS against teams that made the NCAA tournament.
Marquette is 9-7 SU and 7-8-1 ATS versus tournament teams this season.
As of Friday morning, Bovada.lv was offering odds of 13/2 on Syracuse winning the NCAA tournament, while Marquette was getting 12/1.