2009 NCAA Tournament: Big Hopes for the Big East

The Big East seized a trio of No. 1 seeds in the men's 2009 NCAA Tournament, with Louisville, Pittsburgh and Connecticut joining North Carolina from the Atlantic Coast Conference on the top line.

This year marked the first time three teams from a single conference have garnered top spots.

The 2009 season was extended for 65 elated teams and their fans hoping to make it to Detroit the first weekend in April, but Sunday was the end of the road for some bubble teams like Penn State and St. Mary's.

Heading up the South region is North Carolina, which will play Radford University. The Tar Heels claimed a No. 1 seed for the third straight season and the 13th time overall, the most in tournament history.

Big East tournament champion Louisville leads the Midwest region after having not been in the top four ranked teams of the USA Today, ESPN or AP polls since week 2 in the regular season. Louisville will play the winner of the play-in game, which features Morehead State vs. Alabama State.

Despite losing early in the Big East Tournament, Pittsburgh hung on to take the spot in the East region, where it will play East Tennessee State. Pitt has a lot to prove, considering it has never beaten a team seeded sixth or better in the tournament.        
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College basketball broadcaster Dick Vitale believes the East is "the toughest region of all four." In that region, Duke, the winner of the ACC Tournament, is seeded second and Villanova is third.

Pitt's last game was a loss in the Big East Tournament, which some argue could actually benefit a team because players have a chance to rest more before the NCAA Tournament begins.

However, Kansas coach Bill Self, who led the Jayhawks to last year's NCAA title, said in an interview Sunday that there's really no silver lining to losing early in a conference tournament. "If you're going to play, you might as well win."

Connecticut is the No. 1 seed in the West, and the Huskies are set to play Chattanooga in the first round. UConn beat out Memphis, the No. 2 team in the West, for the top spot. "The bottom line is Memphis didn't have a profile for a No. 1 seed," said basketball commentator Seth Davis.

Memphis, which lost in the final game of last year's tournament, will meet Cal State Northridge in its opener.

"Our league is so much better than people think," said Memphis coach John Calipari, in an interview on CBS, adding that his team might be underrated because it lost so much talent from a year ago. "We lost three pros, for us to do what we're doing, we must have three pros here, too."

All told, the ACC, Big East and Big 10 each got seven teams into the tournament. The Big 12 and the Pac 10 had six apiece, while the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic 10 each had three. The Horizon and Mountain West conferences have two representatives.

Defending national champion Kansas, which lost to Baylor in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament, got a three seed and will play North Dakota State. The Bison are making their first NCAA Tournament appearance.

Big 12 champion Missouri also garnered a three seed and will play Cornell. Led by Player of the Year contender Blake Griffin, fellow Big 12 school Oklahoma took a No. 2 seed in the South and will play Morgan State.

Teams that were on the bubble for this year's tournament and that made it in included Wisconsin, Arizona, Minnesota and Maryland. However, Creighton, Saint Mary's, Penn State and San Diego State, which were also on the cusp, didn't make the cut.

"We tried to deliver the message this year that it's your entire body of work," said Mike Slive, the commissioner of the SEC and chair of the tournament selection committee, in a televised interview.

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