Fantasy College Basketball Game of the Week: Syracuse vs. Louisville
The Big East is dead. Long live the Big East. Last night's Big East championship game between Syracuse and Louisville was the end of an era of sorts. The 15 teams are going their separate ways. The so-called Catholic Seven are splitting away and will form the new Big East. Neither Syracuse nor Louisville will be a part of that league, but I think the new Big East will be compelling and perhaps better than the current Big East. I am not a fan of conferences of more than 12 teams. I think a league of 10 teams is the best because it allows each team to play all of the other teams, home and away. This provides a better sense of competition and stronger rivalries. The current Big East had some nice rivalries, but there were too many DePaul-South Florida games that belonged in some other conference.
For the last three years, I have believed the Big East was overrated. Part of this was due to the 2010-11 season in which the conference got 11 teams into the NCAA tournament. Only two made the Sweet 16, but Connecticut was able to win the whole enchilada. I don't particularly like the conference's penchant for scheduling down in the non-conference, although that might just be me. Conversely, I think the Big East conference tournament is the best. In 1991, the conference tournament coincided with my spring break, so I watched every game and a love was born. Other conferences seem to follow suit once the Big East tournament proved to be a success. I don't really care that the tournament is at Madison Square Garden.
The Big East should continue to be a good conference with Georgetown, Villanova, and St. John's among other teams. I will be interesting to see who the Catholic Seven adds with Xavier and Creighton as possible additions (even though neither fit the "east" part of the description - neither did Tulane, which should be part of the America 12). My guess is that conference realignment may be an ever-circling wheel, which will cause more confusion for fans. For fantasy leagues, this constant change will keep things fresh, although it might be annoying to more controlling commissioners.
As for the championship game, it was the tale of two defenses. The Orange zone was very restricting in the first half. Cardinals like Gorgui Dieng had some open shots that may have been just out of their range, but the shots did not fall. In the second half, Louisville seemed to figure out the zone and were able to get some easy baskets in the paint. It seems like Syracuse doesn't have enough focus to keep defensive intensity for an entire game. The Orange backcourt of Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche were not particularly good in the games against Georgetown and Louisville. MCW is a tall guard like most NBA teams prefer, but he will need to learn how to make more shots to succeed at the next level.
Louisville won their second straight Big East tournament title, despite a quiet game from Russ Smith. He only took eight shots and finished with 10 points. The Cardinals did not shoot over the zone, but decided to attack its interior. On the face of things, that seems like a crazy move since the Orange bigs are excellent at block shots. However, Dieng and Motrezl Harrell were able to find soft spots by drawing in the zone. Dieng had a career-high eight assists. Kevin Ware had what I considered the backbreaker on an alley-oop dunk. The Cardinals are deep and defensively active. They are among about 10 teams who I think have a legitimate shot to win this year's NCAA tournament.