Originally Published: March 13, 2013

Getting Ready For Even More Drama

By Myron Medcalf | ESPN.com

Any good meal begins with an appetizer. The idea is to soothe the stomach as the main feast is prepared.

That's what college basketball fans were fed on Wednesday. An appetizer that sets up an intriguing entree on Thursday.

Let's be honest: Wednesday's action was more maddening than madness.

Michael Lyons
Jeff Bottari/Getty ImagesAir Force's hopes for a tournament run ended with an injury to its best player, Michael Lyons.

Air Force suffered a lopsided loss to UNLV in the Mountain West tournament after losing star Michael Lyons to a knee injury in the first half. Colorado dismissed Oregon State and Villanova defeated St. John's in the Pac-12 and Big East tourneys, respectively.

Texas Tech toppled West Virginia on a buzzer-beater in a game that few likely noticed simply because it involved West Virginia and Texas Tech. Mike Muscala (20 points, 11 rebounds and a block) and Bucknell earned an automatic bid with a win over Lafayette in the Patriot League tournament championship.

See, it was easy to miss the meaningful moments since they were so scarce. But Wednesday mattered, and Thursday will matter even more now that Syracuse has found itself. Maybe.

It's probably premature to say an Orange team that had lost four of five entering the Big East tournament is "back" following a win over Seton Hall. But James Southerland's stroke (20 points, 6-for-9 from the 3-point line) and Michael Carter-Williams' leadership (Big East tourney-tying record 14 assists, one turnover) were convincing.

And the final edition of the Big East tournament in its traditional format only seems appropriate with Syracuse advancing to play Pitt on Thursday with a potential shot at Georgetown on the line in Friday's semifinals.

That's assuming the Hoyas get past a Cincy team that outplayed Providence on Wednesday. The Bearcats' sluggish, grinding style seems suitable for Georgetown's sluggish, grinding style. But it might not be the most TV-friendly matchup.

In the Pac-12, Jahii Carson scored 34 points in Arizona State's overtime win against Stanford in the opening round of that league's tournament. And now the Sun Devils will attempt to revive their slim at-large hopes with a victory over top-seeded UCLA.

The Big Ten and ACC tourneys will begin. The core of the Big 12 and SEC tournaments will start, too.

Minnesota and Illinois will kick off the action in the Big Ten tournament's return to Chicago. Two teams that will make the Big Dance. Two teams that haven't exactly looked worthy in recent months. Pride is on the line. And in the unpredictable Big Ten, the winner of this game -- believe it or not -- could make a run.

Baylor could be serious now. Not sure what that means for the coming days, but that lopsided weekend win over Kansas should make more folks pay attention to its Big 12 tourney matchup against Oklahoma State.

Villanova versus Louisville could be the setting for the first major upset of the conference tournaments. Notre Dame-Marquette on the same night? Get your popcorn ready.

The circumstances suggest that more drama will come in the next 24 hours.

Wednesday was just a necessary, albeit largely uneventful, precursor. Thursday, however, is a new stage. Our only job is to keep our eyes open and our remotes close.

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