Press Break The Post's Rundown of Local and National College Basketball
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News Feed - April 7, 2009

Post staff writer Camille Powell checks in from the NCAA women's tournament in St. Louis.

On the men's side, the Big East was widely acknowledged to be the country's toughest conference throughout the season. Not so on the women's side, yet the league put two teams into the championship game for the first time ever. Connecticut and Louisville play tonight at 8:30 p.m.

"I think we've been saying all year that the Big East is a really tough conference to play in," said Connecticut senior Renee Montgomery, whose team won its Big East games by an average of 28.5 points. "Every game, you know, the score might not show it, but it was a hard game to play in, and we'd wake up the next morning sore and tired because we got beat up."

The Big East was the third-ranked conference behind the Big 12 and ACC, according to CollegeRPI.com. The Big 12 put seven teams into the NCAA tournament, and one (Oklahoma) made the Final Four. The ACC, which had four teams ranked in the top 12 of the most recent Associated Press poll, put six teams into the field, but only one (Maryland) survived past the second round. The Southeastern Conference, a traditional power, sent seven teams to the tournament, but not one advanced to the Elite Eight — the first time that's ever happened.

Four of the seven Big East teams that made the NCAA tournament, meantime, advanced to the round of 16. Six more teams played in the Women's National Invitation Tournament, with Georgetown advancing to the quarterfinals and South Florida winning the event.

"One of the things that's gratifying is a few years ago we were at the Big East meetings in Ponte Verde, and I gotta tell you, it was one of the more tense, contentious Big East meetings I've ever been a part of," Connecticut Coach Geno Auriemma said. "Miami was leaving, Virginia Tech was leaving. Boston College said they were staying, they lied, then they were leaving. So there was a lot of emotion running through those athletic directors, presidents, coaches.

"And the perception was: 'You'll never be the same. You'll never be as good.' It's the end of the Big East. And now here we are X number of years later, and we have two teams in the men's Final Four. Two in the women's Final Four, playing for the national championship. That's four out of eight. You know, there's a lot of good conferences, a lot of good schools, but I would venture to say that the Big East is healthier, stronger and better than it's ever been."

By Matt Bonesteel  |  April 7, 2009; 12:29 PM ET
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