The last time TD Garden hosted an NCAA tournament regional, the games had a decidedly Big East feel. It was 2009 and both Pittsburgh and Villanova scored wins to reach the Elite 8 before 'Nova advanced to the Final Four with a victory over the Panthers.
There is a chance for a repeat performance this week with Big East standouts Syracuse and Cincinnati playing Thursday night at the Garden. However, both will contend with a pair of Big Ten powers intent on proving that theirs is the best conference in the land. Here is a look at the matchups:
No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 1 Syracuse, 7:15 p.m.
The Orange were the top scoring team in the Big East this season and looked like it with a 50-point second half in their win over Kansas State on Saturday. The Badgers were the No. 1 defensive team in the nation and looked like it in allowing an average of 53.0 points through the first two games of the tourney.
There are two scenarios to keep in mind. First, Wisconsin drew a boatload of offensive fouls in its third-round win over Vanderbilt. If the Orange maintain the high-paced attack that seemed to work in the second half against the Wildcats, expect the cagey Badgers to attempt to try and exploit this aggressiveness. Also, Kansas State grabbed an alarming 25 offensive rebounds, perhaps a sign that the absence of 7-footer Fab Melo will be difficult for Syracuse to overcome against stiffer competition.
No. 6 Cincinnati vs. No. 2 Ohio State, 9:45 p.m.
From an ugly loss to Presbyterian in November and an ugly brawl against Xavier in December to a solid Big East run that included seven wins over ranked leaguemates (including Syracuse in the Big East tournament), it's been a wild ride for the Bearcats.
Their season will become even more intriguing if they can knock off the powerful Buckeyes, who showcased a balanced effort in a third-round win over Gonzaga. These are two of the four teams from Ohio remaining in the tournament. As a historical note, Cincy topped Ohio State in the 1961 and 1962 national title games.