Big East Afternoon Five: 03.26.12 EditionPosted by mlemaire on March 26th, 2012
- And then there was only one. The Final Four is set and only one Big East team — Louisville — will be heading to New Orleans this season. The Cardinals got there thanks to a late furious rally that allowed them to eke out a victory over Florida despite being outplayed by the Gators for most of the game. The victory sets up an intrastate showdown with Kentucky and the Bluegrass State is already starting to reach critical mass with anticipation. Predictably, the Louisville Courier-Journal will be milking this match-up all week long. If you have a hankering from some occasionally unhinged trolling, head over to the paper’s interactive feature called “The Argument,” which basically allows readers to state their case in favor of their team. I have spent 30 minutes on it this morning, and I am already hooked. It should be required reading this week for anyone looking for insight into how intense this game will be for the good folks in Kentucky.
- The conference had a chance to put two teams in the Final Four this weekend, but regular season champion and top-seeded Syracuse couldn’t hang on against an Ohio State team that is playing as well as anyone in the country not named Kentucky. ‘Cuse fans want to blame the referees and their seemingly one-sided foul calls, but the absence of Fab Melo may have cost them this game. The Orange were never a great rebounding team in the first place, but they were badly beaten on the boards against a bigger Buckeyes’ squad and it is hard to win when you give a talented team 13 offensive rebounds. As if the news wasn’t bad enough for ‘Cuse fans, a source told Adam Zagoria after the game that super sophomore Dion Waiters has definitely played his last collegiate game. It looks like next season might be a rebuilding one in upstate New York.
- In news that should surprise absolutely nobody, Connecticut center and captain Alex Oriakhi is transferring out of the program following a disappointing junior season. The jist seems to be that Oriakhi will be eligible to play immediately because of UConn’s likely postseason ban next season, which should make Oriakhi one of the more sought-after transfers in the country. After a great sophomore campaign, Oriakhi fell out of Jim Calhoun’s favor this season and didn’t exactly respond well to the small demotion. It will be very interesting to see if a change of scenery will recharge his batteries and make him a force to be reckoned with, or if his best days are truly behind him.
- File this under “things that absolutely should not happen under any circumstances,” but future Big East program SMUis trying to poach a future conference rival’s coach in Marquette boss Buzz Williams. Knowing they shouldn’t stand a chance, the reports are that SMU is prepared to lavish Williams — a Texas native — with a huge contract to go with their new practice facility and arena renovations. All the money in Texas still shouldn’t be enough to pry Williams loose from the Golden Eagles. Marquette has become one of the premier programs in the country first under Tom Crean and now Williams, and while they will lose a lot of good players this season, they will always be a competitive team, something that cannot be said about the Mustangs. It probably won’t and shouldn’t happen, but let’s talk about it anyway, because if it does happen, it is gigantic news.
- We will use our final note here to make an impassioned plea to members of the media and most importantly, Rick Pitino. We agree, mercurial sophomore Russ Smith does some ridiculous things on the basketball court, both good and bad, but let’s retire the “Russ-diculous” before it really gets off the ground. First of all, it is not even a particularly clever play on a word. Secondly, I know Pitino himself is responsible for the nickname, but collectively we can come up with something more creative than that. College basketball is a sport riddled with amazing nicknames, and there is no way a player as maddening and spectacular as Smith deserves such a crummy one. Of course I am not saying I have any alternatives in mind (I am incredibly not creative), but I am imploring those with a few better ideas to start putting them out there so I don’t have to read that terrible pun anymore.