The two tops teams in the Big East, No. 6 Syracuse and No. 1 Louisville, will play this Saturday in Louisville. Here’s a preview of the game.
OLIVE BRANCH: Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and Louisville coach Rick Pitino got into a sparring match back in October during Big East media day. The two lobbed four-letter expletives each other’s way regarding conference realignment, suggesting that the long-term friendship between the team may have come to an end. Not so, based on the Big East coach’s conference call on Thursday. “We started out together 37 years ago and we’ve been friends ever since,” Boeheim said have the greatest respect for Rick as a person and a coach. He’s done unbelievable things for charities and I think he’s a fun guy to be around. We have a lot of fun when we’re together.” Boeheim also added that Pitino should be a basketball hall of famer.
SCOUTING THE CARDINALS: This year’s Louisville squad has all of the hallmarks of a Pitino coached team with a frustrating mix of pressing, trapping and tight man-to-man defense. Pitino’s group ranks as the No. 1 defense in the country on Kenpom.com’s rankings, and that has continued through the Big East season. Since starting conference play, the Cardinals are allowing just 54 points a game through four games, with USF scoring just 38 points on Saturday. That has coincided with the return of Gorgui Dieng (2.2 blocks a game) who missed seven games with a wrist injury. On offense, Russ Smith has transformed into an elite guard with his frentic style of play, and leads the team with 18.9 points in only 27 minutes a game.
HISTORICALLY SPEAKING: Louisville leads the all-time series 13-6, though Syracuse has won the last two games. The last time the two schools met was on March 3, 2012, with the Orange winning 58-49. Brandon Triche scored 18 points and Dion Waiters chipped in 13 points in the win.
GAME INFORMATION: Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 at 4 p.m. at the Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. TV: ESPN.