UConn-Syracuse Preview

The Associated Press

On the court, Syracuse and Connecticut are poised to face off in what could be another thrilling Big East tournament matchup.

Off the court, both programs have been involved in recent scandals, with another one being reported about the second-ranked Orange this week.

Syracuse brings a 10-game win streak into Thursday's quarterfinal matchup against Connecticut, which is on a 13-game postseason run to boost its hopes of defending its NCAA title.

Three of the last four meetings in the conference tournament between Syracuse (30-1) and UConn (20-12) have gone past regulation. The Orange won a record six-overtime contest three years ago in a quarterfinal matchup and the Huskies prevailed in one extra session last season in the semifinals during their 11-game win streak en route to the program's third national title.

"We're thinking about we're playing one of the best, in my opinion along with Kentucky, the best team in the country tomorrow," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said.

There have been scandals dogging both programs this season. Calhoun served a three-game Big East suspension at the start of the season for failing to create an atmosphere of compliance within the program while freshman guard Ryan Boatright has been held out of nine games while the NCAA has investigated his eligibility.

Those problems probably pale in comparison to what Syracuse has endured, beginning with allegations of sexual abuse against former assistant coach Bernie Fine, who was dismissed in November.

The latest scandal involving the Orange was reported Monday by Yahoo Sports, which said a three-month investigation it conducted showed that Syracuse's program failed to adhere to the drug policy while playing ineligible players over the past decade. According to school officials, the NCAA is investigating the case.

Syracuse swept both regular-season meetings with UConn. The Orange closed on a 22-6 run in their 85-67 home win Feb. 11 and blew a 17-point lead two weeks later before winning 71-69 on the road.

Calhoun didn't coach either of those games while dealing with a painful back condition, which eventually required surgery. The ninth-seeded Huskies have won all three games since he has come back, including the first two in this tournament to rekindle memories of last season when they won five games as a No. 9 seed to earn the title behind MVP Kemba Walker.

UConn rallied from a late nine-point deficit in regulation in Wednesday's 71-67 overtime win over West Virginia as Shabazz Napier scored 26 points and Jeremy Lamb added 22.

"I don't think it can happen again, but then again, I said it could never happen in the first place," Calhoun said. "Would we like to give it a shot? Yeah."

Syracuse has won the Big East tournament five times, most recently in 2006 but never as a top seed. The Orange feature a deep team that includes conference defensive player of the year Fab Melo and sixth man award winner Dion Waiters.

"We just want to play well at the end of the day," senior Kris Joseph said. "The Big East tournament is really important to us. We want to bring that title back to Syracuse."

This game marks a Big East-record 14th matchup between these schools in the conference tournament.

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