Skip to content

Preview: No. 4 Louisville meets No. 19 Syracuse for Big East championship

Mar 16, 2013, 10:30 AM EDT

Louisville Syracuse AP

Louisville and Syracuse meet Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The winner is the final Big East champion as we’ve come to know it and will earn an automatic bid. The loser will follow along into the NCAA tournament with an at-large. But both, perhaps more importantly in the historical context of things, will eventually end up in the ACC. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was less-than-optimistic Friday night on the topic of realignment.

“This has got nothing to do with basketball. This is about football,” he said. “It’s where everything is going. Just wait a few more years. Everybody will be gone.”

So let’s try not to think of this Big East championship as an ACC preview, as tough as that may be, because we’ve got a Big East champion to crown. Check out the preview below:

Coaches

Both Louisville’s Rick Pitino and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim have been woven into the fabric of the Big East tournament and both have taken time to lament the fall of the conference that helped define their two careers. Win or lose, the postgame press conferences will likely be a dominated by comments about the league itself, the venue in Manhattan, and the tradition of this conference. Louisville guard Peyton Siva cited Pitino’s love of Madison Square Garden as one of the reasons he enjoys bringing his team to play there. Saturday there will be a Big East champion, but it will also be the end of an era.

Advantage: Draw

Guards

Much of what will dictate Louisville’s success in March is how well the backcourt combo of Siva and Russ Smith plays. If Friday night’s semifinal against Syracuse is any indication, the Cardinals could make a run. Siva is coming alive in the same way he did last season at this time, as an efficient and productive guard capable of leading a team to the Final Four. Smith chipped in as well with 20 points.

Michael Carter-Williams struggled against the mix of defenses Georgetown rolled out Friday night in the semifinal, shooting 1-of-7 from the floor and turning the ball over six times. Brandon Triche was an efficient 4-of-7 from the field for 13 points, but needs to pick up his aggressiveness and maintain his confidence for the Orange.

Advantage: Louisville

Forwards

James Southerland is having a historic run in this year’s Big East tournament from behind the three-point line. He has made 16 shots from long range so far, tying the conference tournament record held by former Syracuse guard and current Syracuse assistant Gerry McNamara. Southerland’s ability to stretch the floor is the most important part of his game, as it allows Carter-Williams and Triche to have more space, as well as more room for fellow forward C.J. Fair. Fair did not play well Friday, going 3-of-16 from the floor, but Boeheim still spoke glowingly about him in the postgame press conference.

Louisville’s Luke Hancock takes on the same role for the Cardinals as Southerland has for Syracuse. He stretches the floor and hits big shots when they need it, including 3-of-3 from three-point range Friday night in the win over Notre Dame. Chane Behanan hasn’t scored in double figures since Feb. 27 and more production from him could never hurt.

Advantage: Syracuse

Centers

Gorgui Dieng has developed and refined his game noticeably from last season to this season. Previously making his impression solely on the defensive end, Dieng is now more versatile offensively and is an option as a facilitator for other scorers on the floor. And, oh yeah, he can still block shots.

Baye Keita played 41 minutes Friday night against Georgetown and did what Syracuse needed him to do. He also had one of his best offensive outputs in a while, tripling his season scoring average with 13 points and adding eight rebounds. Rakeem Christmas played just four minutes and Boeheim said after the game he was “sleeping” for much of Friday’s win.

Advantage: Louisville

Prediction

When Louisville’s guards are playing like this, they are tough to beat. Siva and Smith, with Hancock hitting shots from the outside and Dieng locking down the interior, don’t allow for the opponent to exploit too many weaknesses. As simple as it sounds, it will likely come down to the team that is consistently hitting shots. Syracuse did that in the first half against Georgetown Friday and built a nine-point lead. They didn’t do it in the second half and allowed the Hoyas to climb back into it.

Louisville will need to disrupt Carter-Williams with a mix of defensive rotations and force him to turn the ball over. Doing that not only works to make Southerland a non-factor, but will help the Cardinals get out in transition. Siva has not played well in either of his matchups this year with Syracuse, which turned out to be one win and one loss. They’ll need him tonight to win the Big East championship.

Final Score: Louisville 64, Syracuse 60

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Stanford guard to miss action with a broken wrist

    Oct 21, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT

    Pac 12 Basketball Tournament - Stanford v California Getty Images

    Stanford’s back court depth took a hit this week.

  2. James Madison announces suspensions for two players

    Oct 21, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Suspensions have been handed down for two James Madison players involved in a fall altercation.

  3. Nebraska lands commitment from 2016 forward

    Oct 21, 2014, 8:38 PM EDT

    Tim Miles AP

    Nebraska has been recruiting the state of Illinois very hard and it paid off with a 2016 commitment.

  4. Kansas State loses forward for the season

    Oct 21, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT

    La Salle v Kansas State Getty Images

    Kansas State has taken a hit to its front court depth this week.

  5. Florida guard cleared to return to practice

    Oct 21, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT

    Southern v Florida Getty Images

    Florida’s backcourt depth received a big boost this week.

  6. Georgia State guard Kevin Ware will miss time with high ankle sprain

    Oct 21, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT

    Martino Brock, Kevin Ware AP

    Georgia State loses Kevin Ware with a high ankle sprain.

  7. Improved American team ready to defend Patriot League title in 2014-2015

    Oct 21, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    AUEagles.com AUEagles.com

    American went from ninth in the Patriot League preseason polls to a No. 15 seed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Safe to say, the Eagles will be viewed much differently this time around with four returning starters.

  8. Larry Nance Jr. cleared to play for Wyoming

    Oct 21, 2014, 5:15 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Wyoming becomes a contender in the Mountain West Conference with the return of senior forward Larry Nance Jr.

  9. Clemson lands junior college 7-footer in 2015 class

    Oct 21, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT

    Brad Brownell AP

    Clemson added a junior college post that could come in and make an immediate impact.

  10. Texas A&M lands another five-star center, has loaded 2015 recruiting class

    Oct 21, 2014, 3:06 PM EDT

    elijah thomas

    The Aggies now have one of the best recruiting classes in the country.

  11. 2014-2015 Season Preview: American is the favorite in a competitive Patriot League

    Oct 21, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    American was the surprise team in the Patriot League a season ago. Can they repeat as league champs?

  12. Belmont, Murray State top preseason Ohio Valley poll

    Oct 21, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    AP AP

    No surprise that Murray State and Belmont are expected to be at the top of the league.

  13. Report: Houston guard to miss two months with foot injury

    Oct 21, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    L.J. Rose,Michael Dixon Jr. AP

    L.J. Rose is expected to return around Christmas.

  14. Top 25 Countdown: No. 14 Florida Gators

    Oct 21, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    AP AP

    The Gators are good enough to win the SEC. They have enough question marks to finish outside the top 25 as well.

  15. 2014-2015 Season Preview: College Basketball’s Top 13 Dunkers (VIDEOS)

    Oct 21, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    Michael Qualls, Arkansas (Getty Images) Michael Qualls, Arkansas (Getty Images)

    These are the players to keep an eye on if you like seeing aerial acrobatics.

  16. Kansas State loses redshirt freshman to transfer

    Oct 20, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT

    La Salle v Kansas State Getty Images

    Kansas State is losing a redshirt freshman to transfer.

  17. Virginia lands four-star guard from 2016 class

    Oct 20, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

    (adidas) (adidas)

    Virginia got a very skilled guard in the 2016 class.

  18. Florida lands three-star 2015 wing

    Oct 20, 2014, 9:15 PM EDT

    Billy Donovan AP

    Florida landed an in-state Class of 2015 wing to make it a four-man class.

  19. Memphis grabs a commitment from a 2016 guard

    Oct 20, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT

    Josh Pastner AP

    Memphis found a 2016 guard to join center Nick Marshall in the recruiting class.