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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 2:25 PM

We’ve talked about both teams quite a bit in recent weeks. Now, suddenly hot shooting Syracuse takes on recent powerhouse Louisville Saturday Night for the Big East tournament championship. At stake…a probable #1 seed in the Big Dance for Louisville…and a chance to write its own final chapter in the “classic” Big East history books for Syracuse.

Both teams will be flying different conference banners next year. But, only Syracuse has been synonymous with Big East basketball for the entirety of the league’s history. Big game for BOTH teams beyond just what happens on the floor this evening.

Let’s run the title tilt through our indicator gauntlet.

WON-LOST RECORDS

Syracuse: 26-8 (11-7 in the Big East)

Louisville: 28-5 (14-4 in the Big East)

Louisville closed the season much more impressively, as Syracuse often has trouble against teams who have gotten used to their zone defense. The Orange have been advancing in the Big East tournament because of lights out long range shooting that has trumped other issues. Interesting that both teams won road games at the other’s site in the regular season matchups.

COMPUTER RANKINGS

Syracuse: #10 with Sagarin, #13 with Pomeroy

Louisville: #1 with Sagarin, #2 with Pomeroy

Louisville is considered on par with Indiana nationally heading into Saturday’s action according to Jeff Sagarin of USA Today and college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy. Syracuse’s three-game run thus far in the Big East has lifted them back up to top 10 consideration.

COMPUTER STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANKINGS

Syracuse: #19 with Sagarin, #19 with Pomeroy

Louisville: #9 with Sagarin, #12 with Pomeroy

Both teams have played tough schedules, and are battle tested heading into the Dance. Quite a few of the best championship candidates are battle-tested…which may be a problem for somebody like Gonzaga who isn’t. More on that next week. Neither of tonight’s teams will feel any fear.

WON-LOST RECORDS VS. SAGARIN’S TOP 50

Syracuse: 7-7

Louisville: 11-5

Syracuse was 5-7 before beating Pittsburgh and Georgetown from the three-point line. That’s a dangerous way to play…particularly in a 4-in-4 spot where fatigue may cause legs to go tired. Louisville is only playing a 3-3…and hasn’t had to even sweat recent games vs. good teams.

JOE LUNARDI’S BRACKETOLOGY

Syracuse: projected #4 seed

Louisville: projected #1 seed

Syracuse is back up to a #4 seed with this week’s hot run. Louisville is on the short list for consideration as the #1 seed overall in the brackets.

POMEROY’S ADJUSTED OFFENSE RANKINGS

Syracuse: #16

Louisville: #18

A dead heat here, as the margin for error is high enough to account for the slight differences. A pair of elite offenses once you adjust for pace and strength of schedule. Very important to be balanced heading into the Dance.

POMEROY’S ADJUSTED DEFENSE RANKINGS

Syracuse: #22

Louisville: #1

Louisville once again has built a fantastic defense under Coach Rick Pitino. He doesn’t get enough credit for this…because everybody remembers him as an offensive innovator a couple of decades ago. When you adjust for tempo and schedule strength…Louisville has the best team in the country. Syracuse is in the top 25…but they play better than that vs. teams who haven’t seen their zone before…and worse vs. teams who have. This is Louisville’s third look of the season.

POMEROY’S ADJUSTED TEMPO RANKINGS

Syracuse: #235

Louisville: #108

Louisville likes pace…and is right in the sweet spot for recent championship caliber teams. If you attack the basket and earn free throws...that's often a tie-breaker in big neutral site games. Syracuse is slower than average, and may have trouble here if Louisville can force tempo. Tough to push the ball playing your third game in four nights!

BEST EXPECTATION

JIM HURLEY thinks pace could be the deciding factor for the pointspread cover. If Syracuse can slow things down to save their energy…while continuing to hit treys…they can easily win this game and cut down the nets in Jim Boeheim’s last Big East game. If Louisville can push things early, the Orange may run out of gas by halftime and go meekly into the New York night.

NETWORK’S New York sources have been hard at work scouting out any morsel of information they can find about focus and energy. If this game made the cut from on today’s card…you can be certain that they contributed to the final decision.

Game day selections are always available for credit card purchase right here at the website. As you watch games on TV Saturday afternoon and evening, try to map out plans for the rest of the postseason. Great rates are available that take you through the NCAA’s, the NIT, or the NBA Playoffs. If you have any questions, call 1-800-323-4453.  

It’s CHAMPIONSHIP NIGHT in college basketball. When championships are on the line, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!

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