Date: Saturday, March 14th
Time: 9:00 p.m. EST
Site: Madison Square Garden (19,786) in New York, N.Y.
Series History: UofL leads 9-4 (5-1 in Louisville, 1-3 in Syracuse, 3-0 neutral) Last Meeting: UofL 67, Syracuse 57 (Jan. 25, 2009 in Syracuse, NY)
National Rankings: UL No. 5 AP, ESPN/USA Today, Syracuse No. 18/20 (Mar. 9)
Syracuse has made another unbelievable run for their 14th appearace in the BIG EAST championship final, which is a conference record. Louisville is seeking its first ever BIG EAST championship (albeit in only their fourth year in the league). Tonight at 9:00pm EST on ESPN these two teams will duke it out on the court for the title of BIG EAST Champions. The Cardinals of course have already won the regular season outright, and look to take both trophies home to Louisville.
The Cardinals should already have a one seed locked up in the Dance, but a win tonight will all but guarantee Louisville its first number one seed ever (since the Tourney expanded to 64 teams). Louisville should be up to the challenge following a wake-up call of sorts at halftime of last night’s semifinal.
Coach Pitino ripped the players for playing one-on-one for the entire first half against Villanova and the Cards responded. “The good thing about these guys is when you say something, when they know you’re right, they step up and admit what they were doing is wrong—and they stepped up and played great team basketball,” said Louisville coach Rick Pitino, whose team is shooting 50.1 percent over its last nine games.
Less than 24 hours after sixth-seeded Syracuse (26-8) beat No. 3 Connecticut 127-117 in an historic six-overtime quarterfinal thriller, the Orange went an extra five minutes to oust seventh-seeded West Virginia 74-69 on Friday. Shunning fatigue and playing with confidence, Syracuse will try for its eighth straight victory and third Big East tournament title in five years.
Sophomore Jonny Flynn, who has played 112 minutes over the last two games, leads Syracuse in scoring (17.7) and assists (6.7). Junior (yep, only a Junior) guard Eric Devendorf provides 15.8 points a contest, and Junior forward Paul Harris leads the team in rebounding (8.0) and contributes 12.8 points per game. The offensive onslaught doesn’t stop there, Junior forward Arinze Onuaku, who leads the nation in field goal percentage (70.1%), gives the Orange 10.5ppg, 7.4rpg, and 1.56 blocks per contest. Finally there is Junior guard Andy Rautins, averaging 10.7 points per game.
There is a rich tradition between the two Hall of Fame coaches, Rick Pitino and Jim Boeheim. Slick Rick was hired by Boeheim on Pitino’s wedding night in 1976 and served as an assistant to Jimmy on his first two staffs. Pitino is 6-7 all time versus the ‘Cuse, 3-1 while at Louisville, 0-5 with Providence, and 3-1 at Kentucky.
Bobby E’s Gamebreaker: DEFENSIVE PRESSURE!!!
With Syracuse playing its fourth game (to go along with SEVEN overtimes) in four days, Louisville needs to hound the likely noodle-legged Orange to death on the defensive side of the ball. Forcing turnovers and creating easy buckets off those turnovers should lead to a somewhat comfortable victory and first ever BIG EAST Championship for Slick Rick and the Louisville Cardinals.
If the game is close, hack-an-Onuaku will definitely be the Cardinals strategy. In case you are unaware, Onuaku is putting together quite possibly the worst statistical “accomplishment” ever. See: Arinze Onuaku Is a Bad Free Throw Shooter: Seriously He’s Horrible.