Syracuse vs Louisville: Polarizing Stars Will Define Big East Championship

Tim KeeneyContributor IMarch 16, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 15:  (L-R) Michael Carter-Williams #1 and Brandon Triche #20 of the Syracuse Orange react in overtime against the Georgetown Hoyas during the semifinals of the Big East Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 15, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

We are over four months removed from the first game of the 2012-13 college basketball season, and there are still a handful of Syracuse and Louisville players who are nearly impossible to figure out. 

But every team in the country has its share of polarizing players who, much like that one Katy Perry song, go hot and cold. What exactly makes the Orange and Cardinals so much more important?

Simply put, these players are more crucial to their team's success. That's why, at some point this season, both squads have been ranked in the top three, and both squads have also dropped three straight.

When your leaders, best players and guards tend to go through the season like a roller coaster, your team does as well. 

As such, in the final (old) Big East conference championship ever, these are going to be the vital players to watch.


Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse

Carter-Williams reminds me a little bit of Tony Wroten. He has the size, athleticism, gaudy passing skills and talent to be a top-five pick in the NBA draft, but the decision-making and shooting ability isn't always there. 

On the year, the electric MCW is averaging 7.6 assists thanks to his unstoppable ability to get into the lane and unbelievable vision. However, he is also shooting just 38.5 percent from the field, 28 percent from long range and turns the ball over 3.4 times per game. 

When Syracuse is losing, you can usually find him shooting too much and distributing too little.

In losses to Temple and Villanova, the sophomore attempted a season-high 17 shots and made just seven. In the Orange's second defeat to Georgetown, he tallied zero assists and four turnovers.

However, during Syracuse's current three-game run through the Big East tourney, he is averaging just 5.7 field-goal attempts and 8.7 assists.

Sense the trend?


James Southerland, Syracuse

In the four games leading up to the Big East tourney, Southerland hit just 8-of-30 three-point attempts, good (or bad) for a 26.7 percent mark.

It's safe to say he's snapped out of that funk, though.

All the 6'8" forward has done is set the single-game record for three-point makes (six) without a miss against Pittsburgh, and then further shred the record books against Georgetown (via the Chicago Tribune's Brian Hamilton):

Oh, and those 16 makes have come on 25 attempts, which is a daydream-like 64 percent.

Southerland isn't as polarizing as the other guys on this list, but when he's knocking down shots like this 'Cuse is tough to beat. 


Russ Smith, Louisville

While others on this list can be good and bad from game to game, Smith goes from good to bad and back and forth several times in a matter of seconds.

Of course, that's what makes him so special. 

The junior guard is fearless. He is one of the fastest players in America and, much like a certain NBA player with the same last name, is always looking to make a play. Often times that ends with plays that leave you scratching your head, but other times with plays that earn him the nickname Russdiculous. 

On the year, Smith is averaging 18.3 points on 40.5 percent shooting to go with 2.9 assists and 2.0 steals per contest, and boy is it entertaining watching him get there. 


Peyton Siva, Louisville

Siva is averaging 5.8 assists and 2.8 turnovers per game. He will usually come pretty close to those numbers, and in that regard he is far from polarizing. 

But the heady senior point guard's offensive game comes and goes. 

Much like his backcourt mate, the Seattle native plays like he has a cheetah taped to his back, and is nearly impossible to stay in front of. As a result, he is shooting 48.4 percent from inside the arc and can be a dangerous playmaker when he gets to the rack.

However, there are times when he settles for too many jump shots or simply stops looking for his offense at all. 

In the last meeting between these teams, Siva took nine shots. Eight of those were three-pointers, however, and he finished with a staggering zero points.

He has finished with five points or less an amazing seven other times this season, and in those games he has attempted more than five shots inside the arc just once.

For a player so talented around the hoop and inside the paint, that can't continue to happen.