Cards shuffled from top spot
Saturday was a big day for the Big East, as a much-hyped matchup between No. 1 Louisville and No. 6 Syracuse headlined the afternoon. It was also an unfortunate reminder of why it’s so difficult to keep a Big East team at No. 1 over the course of the season.
The Cardinals were on an 11-game win streak, while Syracuse had six consecutive victories after its lone loss to Temple. The Orange led for the first nine minutes of play until a three-pointer by Kevin Ware gave the Cards a 19-18 lead.
From there, Louisville held the lead by as many as nine points until Michael Carter-Williams’s three-pointer put Syracuse up by two with 5:28 to go.
Guard Russ Smith, Louisville’s only double-digit scorer with 25 points, knocked down a pair of free throws with 1:28 left to make it 68-66 Cardinals.
With 53 seconds to play, Carter-Williams missed one of two free throws to give Louisville a chance to seal the win, but Cardinals guard Peyton Siva turned the ball over. Carter-Williams responded with a dunk and later another free throw to decide the 70-68 contest.
It was the second straight Saturday that the No. 1 team has been bounced, after the other team that beat Louisville this year, Duke, fell to No. 20 N.C. State last weekend.
The fact is, going undefeated and running the table in the Big East has become an almost preposterous concept, and again it most likely won’t happen this year with only the Orange still undefeated.
Big East teams all winners
This will likely be the final year of the glory days of the Big East; fittingly enough, the conference appears to have risen to the challenge from top to bottom.
As it stands, every team in the Big East has a record above .500, from 17-1 Syracuse to 10-8 DePaul. Four teams headed into this week ranked in the top 25, but losses by No. 25 Marquette and No. 20 Notre Dame could open the way for two new Big East teams to break the rankings.
The Big East fared well early against the rest of the country, boasting some impressive non-conference victories this season. To name a few, Syracuse started its season with a 62-49 win over then-No. 20 San Diego State, Notre Dame knocked off then-No. 8 Kentucky later in the year and Georgetown has beaten both No. 13 UCLA and Texas.
While the Orange are the only team still undefeated in conference play at 5-0, seven other teams are at least 3-3 with a chance to contend for the top spot. One surprise is 12-5 (3-3) Rutgers, winner over then-No. 24 Pittsburgh and St. John’s. On the flip side, Georgetown has slightly underperformed, losing to Marquette, Pittsburgh and South Florida.
Game of the Week
Louisville at Georgetown – Saturday, 11 a.m., Washington D.C.
Both of these teams are coming off big losses. The Cardinals will have something to prove after being knocked out of the No. 1 spot last week, while the Hoyas will be looking for a marquee win after dropping a road game to South Florida.
This game could have major implications for Georgetown’s season and Louisville’s chances at getting back to No. 1. The Hoyas have forced all of their opponents to play low-scoring defensive scrums and will try to take the Cardinals out of their usually fast-paced style.
Player of the Week
Sean Kilpatrick, Junior Guard, Cincinnati
Kilpatrick played a big role in the Bearcats’ 75-70 road win at DePaul, scoring 18 points. He played an even bigger role in Saturday’s 71-69 overtime home win against Marquette. Kilpatrick doubled his DePaul point total against the Golden Eagles, picking up an astonishing 36 points. As if that wasn’t enough, he scored the game-winning contested lay-in with 4.3 seconds left in overtime.