The last championship game for the Big East Conference pits two storied programs in college basketball against one another with No. 19 Syracuse meeting No. 4 Louisville Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
Jim Boeheim’s Orange already toppled one of the conference’s national title hopefuls in rival No. 5 Georgetown on Friday. In the 58-55 overtime victory, James Southerland was 4-for-10 from three-point range en route to 13 points, with three blocks and two steals.
Sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams coughed up six turnovers, and Syracuse surrendered a 12-point lead, but defended the three-point line well, holding the Hoyas to 22 percent from deep.
The win improved Syracuse’s mark to 6-4 against ranked opponents, and avenged their two losses to Georgetown earlier in the season, including a 61-39 drubbing in the regular season finale.
For the tournament, Syracuse has shot 54 percent from three, a stark contrast from its outside shooting to close the regular season.
Syracuse could greatly improve it's standing with NCAA selection committee with a second victory over Louisville, and perhaps wipe away their 1-4 record at the end of the year. During that slide the Orange were 20-for-86, or 23 percent, from three.
Louisville gained some revenge on the Orange in their last game, with a 58-53 victory back on March 2 after Syracuse knocked them from the country’s No. 1 ranking in January.
In the semifinals, head coach Rick Pitino and the Cardinals dispatched Notre Dame 69-57 Friday behind Russ Smith’s 20 points and six assists, and Peyton Siva had seven steals to go along with 12 points and six assists.
Team rebound leader Gorgui Dieng, who has struggled from the field of late, had eight points and 12 rebounds.
Perhaps clicking at the best time, Louisville is riding a nine-game winning streak, and last lost to the Fighting Irish on Feb. 9 in a five overtime 104-101 thriller.
A win for the Cardinals on Saturday keeps them in the discussion with Duke, Indiana, and current No. 1 Gonzaga for one of the four top seeds in next week’s NCAA Tournament.
The game tips-off at 8:30 p.m. and will be broadcast by ESPN, or can be viewed on a live online stream at Watch ESPN here.
Betting Odds: Louisville is favored by 4.5 points
Over/Under: 124 points
Prediction: Syracuse will have to continue to shoot the lights out from three to counter act Louisville’s size advantage. Carter-Williams must control his turnovers, and Orange leading scorer and rebounder C.J. Fair must also break out of an 8-for-32 shooting slump. This should come down to the wire, with the victor controlling the boards.
Predicted Score: Louisville 68, Syracuse 64