Syracuse Orange head coach Jim Boeheim directs his team against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the first half of their men's NCAA East Regional basketball game in Boston

Jim Boeheim: “The Big East isn’t what it used to be”

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The disintegration of the Big East was fast-tracked a year on Monday when it was officially announced that Syracuse would be leaving the conference after the 2012-2013 academic year.

For the diehard college basketball fans that grew up in the Northeast (ME!), losing Syracuse — and eventually Pitt — is disheartening and disappointing. Jim Boeheim is one of the Big East’s pillars. He, along with John Thompson Jr., Jim Calhoun and Lou Carnesecca, helped build the Big East into the nation’s best basketball conference.

Madison Square Garden in the second week of March for five days of Big East hoops was one of the highlights of my year. I can’t tell you how many of Big East tournament moments count among the most memorable of my childhood sports fandom. I grew up loving the Huskies and despising the Orange — and the Hoyas and the Panthers and the Johnnies — all while rooting for the Big East, as a conference, to have as much success on a national scale as possible.

Seeing what’s left of the Big East’s carcass is depressing, and I was only watching. You’d expect someone like Boeheim to feel the same way, right?:

“The Big East is not what it used to be,” said Boeheim, the Orange’s head basketball coach, following the U.S. club’s 80-69 exhibition victory over Brazil on Monday night. “I think the ACC is a tremendous league and it’s a tremendous opportunity for us. To stay in one time zone and play in a great conference — a great all-around conference, but, specifically, a great basketball conference — is a great thing.”

It hurts, but he’s right.

When the Big East was at its peak, the league was all about the hoops. They didn’t need to add the likes or SMU or USF or UCF or Houston to “bolster” football. It’s like watching a grandparent battling cancer pass away. Losing them is sad, but you knew it was coming and seeing their misery end is consoling:

“This was coming,” Boeheim said of the announcement of SU’s jump to the ACC. “We knew it was coming. But it’s good to get it done. We didn’t want to wait another two years. One year is doable. I’m glad things worked out the way they have. It is what it is. We’ll focus completely on the Big East this year, just like we did last year. We’ll try to play the best we can and we’ll let future take care of itself.”

You know, sometimes I really hate college football.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

No. 17 Arizona erases double-digit deficit to beat UCLA

Arizona coach Sean Miller reacts to a foul call during the first half of Arizona's NCAA college basketball game against UCLA, Friday, Feb 12, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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Allonzo Trier scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 16 points in his second career start as No. 17 Arizona knocked off UCLA, 81-75, in Tucson on Friday night.

UCLA was up by as much as 11 points in the first half and took a ten point lead into half time, but in the second half, the Bruins were eventually done in by foul trouble and the stronger front line of the Wildcats.

Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski were dominant down the stretch. The duo combined to score 12 of the last 23 point for the Wildcats, including the bucket that put the Wildcats ahead for the first time since early in the first half. Off of a missed free throw, UCLA’s Thomas Welsh battled with Tarczewski for the rebound, but when Welsh finally seemed to gain control of the loose ball, Anderson knocked it out of his hands and bullied through Jonah Bolden for a layup.

All told, those two combined for 20 points and 27 boards, seven of which were offensive. They also managed to foul out both Welsh and Tony Parker, although some of the calls that went against UCLA down the stretch were questionable.

The win keeps Arizona within a game of first place Oregon in the Pac-12 standings and tied for second with No. 23 USC, who will be visiting the McKale Center on Sunday night.

No. 23 USC falls at Arizona State

Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley applauds the efforts of his team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Arizona, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)
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No. 23 USC missed a golden opportunity to make up a game in the Pac-12 standings on Friday night.

No. 11 Oregon lost to Colorado on Thursday night, dropping back into a tie for first place in the league with the Trojans, a game ahead of No. 17 Arizona. But USC fell at Arizona State, 74-67, keeping them a game off of the pace that the Ducks have set.

The loss is even more painful when you consider that, on Sunday, the Trojans will be making the trip to Tucson to take on Arizona. The Wildcats are not what we have become accustomed to seeing under Sean Miller, but they are still a top 25 team and the McKale Center is still one of the toughest places in the country to get a win.

Thanks to Friday’s loss, instead of entering McKale with an outside chance of taking over sole possession of first place in the league, USC will have top hope they don’t fall two games off the pace.

As far as the game itself was concerned, USC committed 17 turnovers, shot 2-for-11 from three and gave up 16 offensive rebounds to Arizona State. That’s how you lose a game where you shoot better than 51 percent from the floor. USC was just never able to consistently get out into transition, and that caused them to struggle executing in the half court.

Nikola Jovanovic led the way with 25 points and 15 boards for USC.

Tra Holder’s 20 points made the difference for Arizona State, who kept themselves within striking distance of an at-large bid with the win.