akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

NEW YORK — The Marquette Golden Eagles, picked ninth out of 11 teams in the Big East Conference preseason poll, surprised the league by being runaway winners of the conference at the end of the season. They’re hoping to avoid being surprised in their first game of the conference tournament.

Shaka Smart’s squad comes in to New York winners of 11 of their last 12 games, though their most recent win was the toughest in that stretch: a 96-94 home victory over St. John’s in which the Red Storm missed a potential game-tying free throw with two seconds remaining to deliver the Golden Eagles a thrilling win.

Guess who’s the Golden Eagles first game in the Big East Tournament is against at noon? You guessed it, St. John’s, who handled its business yesterday in defeating Butler in the first round. If today’s contest is anything like last Saturday, then get ready for a matinee thriller.

If the first game can be considered an appetizer, then a match-up of two of the original seven founding members of the Big East, No. 4 Connecticut and No. 5 Providence, should get the World’s Most Famous Arena buzzing. The fan bases of both New England schools travel in droves to Madison Square Garden, and the fifth-ever meeting between the schools in tournament play — despite being members of the same conference in 37 of the past 44 seasons — should raise the electricity level even more.

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Thursday’s quarterfinals, with the photos taken by ALOST photographer Jenny Rohl. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are seven pictures in total.

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Tags : Big East ConferenceBig East TournamentConnecticut HuskiesMarquette Golden EaglesProvidence FriarsSt. John's Red Storm

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