Mar 16, 2013, 10:30 AM EST
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Dec 7, 2013, 4:02 AM EST
Last weekend, when John Calipari brought his team up to the Barclays Center to take on Providence, he made it a point to talk about how much he team has to learn defensively. In fact, in both the press conference he gave prior to the game and his postgame chat with reporters, Coach Cal used…
Dec 7, 2013, 2:36 AM EST
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Baylor 67, Kentucky 62 It didn’t have the atmosphere of a game that was one of the season’s biggest to date since it was played at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, but Baylor announced themselves to the country as a top team. They did it with Kenny Chery, a Junior College transfer in…
Dec 7, 2013, 1:58 AM EST
After graduation claimed do-it-all point guard Pierre Jackson from last year’s Baylor team, many wondered if Kenny Chery– a Junior College transfer from State Fair Community College in Missouri — could fill the void. Scott Drew was going to give Chery the keys to the car, but could he drive it? Chery answered that question in…
Dec 7, 2013, 12:17 AM EST
Credit Mike Montgomery and Cal for heading to southern California to play at UC Santa Barbara. It’s not too often that a program from a BCS conference travels to play at the gym of a mid-major team, but the Golden Bears did that tonight. Montgomery probably regrets it as Cal lost to UCSB, 72-65. While…
Dec 6, 2013, 11:19 PM EST
While some were no doubt irked that the Baylor vs. Kentucky game went into four overtimes — thereby causing the men’s game to begin roughly 80 minutes after its scheduled tip — the women’s game was a dandy. The 263 combined points eclipsed the previous record of 252 points. The two teams were neck and…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:49 PM EST
You know by now that every year at Taylor University they have their “Silent Night” game. On the Friday before final exams, the students gather in Odle Arena and the crowd remains dead silent until the tenth point is scored. Once Taylor reaches point number ten, pandemonium ensues. Afterwards, the crowd harmoniously sings “Silent Night.” Tonight…
Dec 6, 2013, 8:36 PM EST
The trying career of Allan Chaney has come to an end. After beginning at the University of Florida for his freshman year, then transferring to Virginia Tech where he never was cleared to play due to a case of viral mycarditis — an infection that results in inflammation of the heart – he finally ended up at…
Dec 6, 2013, 7:45 PM EST
Stanford senior guard Aaron Bright will be sidelined for the remainder of the season with a dislocated right shoulder he injured in practice last week. After averaging better than 30 minutes per game a season ago, Bright had been playing a smaller role on this year’s team coming off the bench and playing 19.3 minutes…
Dec 6, 2013, 6:51 PM EST
When St. Joseph’s and Villanova — two of the five schools making up Philadelphia’s “Big Five” — meet on the hardwood, the game is always a ‘can’t miss’ and atmosphere unparalleled. When the game is played at St. Joseph’s Hagan Arena, there may not be another gym in the country that provides the home team…
Dec 6, 2013, 4:07 PM EST
In two of Kansas’ three games at the Battle 4 Atlantis last weekend, freshman point guard Frank Mason played well. Overall he averaged 9.7 points and 2.0 assists per contest, reaching double figures in games against Wake Forest (13 points) and Villanova (12). With the recent run of play and his work in practice, head…
Dec 6, 2013, 3:18 PM EST
GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 3 Kentucky vs. No. 20 Baylor, 10:00 p.m. (ESPN) This isn’t a difficult choice, as the meeting between the Wildcats and Bears at the site of this season’s Final Four is the only contest matching ranked teams. And it’s a chance to make a statement nationally for Baylor, with sophomore…
Dec 6, 2013, 2:00 PM EST
In a new series here on College Basketball Talk, every Friday we’re going to have a discussion about some of the hot topics in college basketball. The inaugural installment focuses on the ACC, the now 15-team conference that some stated was the greatest conference ever assembled before a game had been played. Now that we’ve…
Dec 6, 2013, 1:11 PM EST
With two games remaining in the suspensions of guard Dominic Artis and forward Ben Carter, Oregon will see its depth improve in short order. And apparently the Ducks will add another player, as freshman forward Jordan Bell has qualified and is now able to join the team. Bell, who played at Long Beach (Calif.) Poly,…
Dec 6, 2013, 11:45 AM EST
Vanderbilt was able to hold off Marshall on Thursday night, beating the Thundering Herd 69-67 with Damian Jones and James Siakam leading the way with 15 points apiece. But the victory was a Pyrrhic one, as on Friday morning head coach Kevin Stallings announced that junior center Josh Henderson tore both the ACL and MCL…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:34 AM EST
During their three games in The Bahamas last weekend the Xavier Musketeers were shorthanded in the front court, as senior forward Erik Stenger was unable to participate due to an illness. The issues began shortly before the Musketeers left the States, as Stenger underwent medical testing (including bloodwork) after being “unusually lethargic” during practices. On…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:24 AM EST
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 3 Kentucky vs. No. 20 Baylor, Fri. 10:00 p.m. Braving the ice and sleet in Dallas, Kentucky will be squaring off with the Bears at the Jerry Dome in a game that will almost assuredly see more UK fans show up than Baylor fans. The irony is that this is…
Dec 6, 2013, 1:23 AM EST
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Providence 50, Rhode Island 49 I bet you didn’t realize the Ocean State had a hoops rivalry like this, did you? The Rams and the Friars did battle on Thursday night in a game that turned into a dogfight pretty quickly. How emotional was it? At one point, Ed Cooley and…
Dec 5, 2013, 11:15 PM EST
Seton Hall established a season high for points in a game on Thursday night in their 92-81 win over LIU Brooklyn, with Brian Oliver knocking down eight three-pointers and scoring a game-high 26 points to lead the way offensively. In total four Pirates scored in double figures, but the win may have come at a…
Dec 5, 2013, 10:30 PM EST
In a thrilling game down in Richmond, Shaka Smart’s VCU Rams outlasted a tough Eastern Kentucky team in overtime, beating the Colonels 71-68. Treveon Graham led four players in double-figures with 15 points and Rob Brandenburg knocked down four threes, including a huge three to kick off the overtime period. That would be the only…
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