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The Early Lead
Posted at 11:37 AM ET, 03/08/2012

Big East tournament: Can Connecticut upset Syracuse to continue its run?

Remember Connecticut’s improbable, Kemba Walker-fueled run to the Big East tournament title last March?

Well, Walker may now be playing in the NBA, but the Huskies are showing their still have a flair for the dramatic at Madison Square Garden.

After upsetting West Virginia 71-67 in overtime in Wednesday’s second round, the Huskies have now won eight straight games at the Big East tournament — going from a bubble team to a likely participant in the NCAA field.

But in order to for the defending national champions to extend their 13-game postseason winning streak, they must now get past No. 2 Syracuse.

The Huskies and Orange tip-off at noon Thursday to open quarterfinal play. Georgetown takes on Cincinnati at 2 p.m., Louisville matches up with Marquette at 7 p.m. and South Florida and Notre Dame provide the nightcap.

Last March it was Walker who provided the clutch last-second baskets that propelled the Huskies to five wins in five days.

This time around, a pair of guards are leading the way. Shabazz Napier scored 26 points — including a personal 9-0 run that tied the game at 63 with just over two minutes left in regulation — before fouling out midway through the extra period. And from there, Jeremy Lamb provided the final dagger, draining a three-pointer with 1:04 left in overtime to put the Huskies on top for good.

“I don’t think it can happen again, but then again, I said it could never happen in the first place,” U-Conn. coach Jim Calhoun said of a possible repeat. “Would we like to give it a shot? Yeah. We’re just going to try to play tomorrow’s basketball game to take it where it may.”

There certainly is a precedent. Last season, the ninth-seeded Huskies beat the Orange in overtime in the semifinals before edging Louisville for the title.

U-Conn. is seeded No. 9 once again, but toppling Syracuse will be a tall order — the Orange have not lost since Jan. 21 at Notre Dame, their only defeat this season. That said, the Huskies did take the tournament’s top seed to the wire two weeks ago in a 71-69 loss.

Do Calhoun’s Huskies have another upset in them today?

Here’s a quick look at the rest of Thursday’s slate:

No. 5 Georgetown vs. No. 4 Cincinnati, 2

The Hoyas avenged one of their six conference losses by taking down Pitt on Wednesday. Now they’ll tangle with another team that got the better of them during the regular season. A win could help solidify Georgetown’s place as a No. 3 seed in the NCAA field while Cincinnati is hoping to move up from the 8-10 range.

No. 7 Louisville vs. No. 2 Marquette, 7

The Golden Eagles won 13 of 15 to close out the regular season and begin tournament play with a chance to improve their NCAA seeding. Louisville stumbled down the stretch, but could help its seeding with a run back to the final. The Cardinals may have snuffed out Seton Hall’s hopes with last night’s 61-55 win.

No. 6 South Florida vs. No. 3 Notre Dame, 9

The Bulls have been on and off the bubble for much of the year, and while they should make the tournament, an ugly 56-47 win over downtrodden Villanova will do little to impress the selection committee. Taking out No. 23 Notre Dame would assure them a spot.

More from Washington Post Sports:

Hoyas advance to quarterfinals with 64-52 win over Pitt

Louisville deals Seton Hall’s tournament hopes a big blow

South Florida beats Villanova to advance

Prisbell: Is it time to say RIP to the RPI?

Bracket Challenge: Make your picks for a chance to win

By  |  11:37 AM ET, 03/08/2012

 
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