Written by Todd Parmelee, HoopWriters.com
No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 6 Syracuse, 9 PM on ESPN.
The two hottest teams in the Big East, Louisville (nine-straight wins) and Syracuse (seven-straight wins), end up meeting in the Championship game tonight, albeit they took two different paths to get here.
Louisville took a relatively easy road to the Big East Championship title game with wins over Providence and Villanova. Villanova proved to be a tough matchup for Louisville as the Ville actually trailed going into halftime 34-26.
Louisville then stepped up its defense and won relatively easily 69 to 55 (they defeated Providence 73-55).
It would nearly be a miracle if Syracuse won this matchup just because they have essentially played two more games than Louisville during the tournament, if you add in the seven overtimes.
Also it is interesting to note that Louisville won at Syracuse on Jan. 25th, 67-57. Not exactly an easy place to play and the fact that they held a fresh Syracuse team to 57 points shows you just the uphill battle Syracuse has in store tonight.
Syracuse wins this game if they can minimize turnovers to around 14 and shoot around 48 percent from the field. In the first game of the tournament versus Seton Hall, Syracuse shot 58 percent from the floor and on the year they are shooting 49 percent.
They did show some wear, shooting only 42 percent in the win over West Virginia and 38 percent versus Connecticut. In order to defeat Louisville, that number will have to be around 48 percent.
Louisvlle wins this game if they stop the pulse of the Orange, Jonny Flynn. The only words Pitino needs to utter in his pregame speech are, "Stop Jonny Flynn and we win."
In the first game of the year Flynn was held to 12 points on three of 12 shooting. He also had three turnovers in that game.
Earl Clark, who will enter this year’s NBA Draft, is the player to watch for Louisville. Clark has decided to play his best basketball and thus increase his NBA draft stock at the end of the year. During the tournament he is averaging 20.5 ppg, 8.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists.
Terrence Williams has struggled during the first two games of the Big East Championship shooting 3-for-16 from the field. It kind of makes you wonder how he was picked to the conference’s first team while Johnny Flynn was only selected to the second team?
I think it is time to give Flynn what he is rightfully owed and vote for him for the Cousy Award.
Jonny Flynn in the Big East Championship, proving he is clearly the best guard to play at the Garden this year (that includes the New York Knicks):
Seton Hall: 19 points, 11 assists
UConn: 34 points, 11 assists
West Virginia: 15 points, 9 assists
Key Stat: In their 67-57 loss to Louisville during the regular season, the Syracuse backcourt of Rautins, Devendorf and Flynn, shot just 8-for-35 from the floor. Syracuse as a team committed 14 turnovers during that game.
On the year Louisville is holding opponents to just 39 percent shooting from the field and 30 percent from beyond the arc.
For the Stat Geek: Syracuse sharp shooter Andy Rautins has attempted 246 three pointers, while only attempting 48 shots from inside the arc. Arinize Onuaku shoots just thirty percent from the free throw line on the year.
Prediction: Louisville locks up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament with a relatively easy 74-62 over Syracuse. The two biggest factors are Louisville’s defense and their depth. Rick Pitino will sometimes go 10 or 12 deep, while Boheim only goes seven deep.
I think Syracuse will get overwhelmed and eventually break down. Trust me, I hate making this prediction because I am not only a Syracuse grad, but I think it would be a much better story if Boheim’s boys won.
Louisville: 27-5, 16-2
Syracuse: 26-8, 11-7
Earl ClarK: 14.2 ppg, 8.9 rebounds
Jonny Flynn: 17.7 ppg, 6.7 assists
Terrence Williams: 13.2 ppg, 8.4 rebs, 5.2 assists
Eric Devendorf: 15.8 ppg, 39% 3-pt
Samardo Sameuls: 10.4 ppg
Paul Harris: 12.8 ppg, 8 rebounds
Edgar Sosa: 8.4 ppg
Andy Rautins: 10.7 ppg, 38% 3-pt
Jerry Smith: 6.9 ppg
Arinzie Onuaku: 10.5 ppg, 30% Free Throws
Also, check out this picture of a Syracuse fan who just could hold his bladder during the six over time thriller vs. UConn.