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Marquette back in Sweet 16, seeks to sustain March magic

The SportsXchange

Buzz Williams defined Marquette's two wins in four days by a total of three points in Lexington, Ky., in one word: Crazy.

He'll trade crazy for Sweet, as the third-seeded Golden Eagles survived the NCAA Tournament's emotional vice grips again to secure a date with second-seeded Miami (Fla.) in Washington, D.C. It's Williams' third year in a row in a regional semifinal.

"I thought that the character and the toughness and resiliency of our guys is maybe unlike any team I've ever been around, and I stand at attention in respect for who those kids are," Williams said.

The resilient coach hailed more for his recruiting and ability to relate to players on a personal level than tactical prowess guided Marquette into a matchup against ACC darling Miami and Jim Larranaga amidst personal strife, too. His wife, Corey, was hospitalized about 36 hours before Thursday's NCAA slate began and had her appendix removed in the wee hours of the morning.

Apropos of the label Buzz Williams wants tied to his team: tough.

"I don't want to be tactical; I want to be tough. But in our toughness, that's what's missed. Within that toughness, there's a discipline that is required to have that toughness," Williams said.

Marquette has a 6-2 record in its last eight games, six of which came down to the final possession. Williams said the team's success when things get tight doesn't make him a tactician. Those who observed his juggling act last week might disagree.

With his wife recovering in a Lexington hospital, Buzz tended to his two boys, ages 6 and 9, while prepping for Davidson and then Butler. It took a furious barrage of 3-point fortune to overtake Davidson and more fortuitous bounces late in the Butler game for Marquette to march on.

Larranaga won't mind that in guiding Miami back to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2000 he'll be back in the building in which George Mason found March magic in 2006 as the first double-digit seed to make it to the Final Four.

The Hurricanes outlasted Illinois 63-59 late Sunday, earning the second regional semifinal appearance in program history. They returned to campus Monday and flew to Washington Tuesday night in advance of Thursday's 7:15 p.m. ET game against Marquette.

That could send Miami, which won the ACC regular-season and conference tournament championships but was passed over for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, to a meeting with the East's top-seeded team, Indiana. Williams and Marquette would gladly take their shot at IU.

The Hoosiers are coached by Tom Crean, who left Marquette in 2008 after nine seasons for his "dream job" at Indiana.

"I didn't even look at that," Crean said on Selection Sunday of the potential regional final against his former employer and Williams, an assistant from 2007-08. "To see Marquette get a three seed and win that league, I'm very excited for that university."
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