HARTFORD, Conn. — For the final time as Big East opponents, Syracuse and UConn shared the floor on Wednesday night in the XL Center in Hartford. The Huskies upset the sixth-ranked Orange, 66-58 to end the series for now.
However, following the loss Jim Boeheim — after one of the more bizarre press conference moments — told reporters he is open to extending the rivalry outside the Big East Conference.
“We’re open to playing anybody,” said Boeheim.
“It’s been a great series. I think Connecticut and Syracuse have had so many great games over the years. It’s one of those things that goes away and that’s the way it is. The league wasn’t able to be kept together. I feel bad about the whole thing.”
In December, Boeheim mentioned that Syracuse was in talks with Georgetown, St. John’s and Villanova, in hopes of keeping matchups with those teams, all of which play in major cities, alive after this season. Cuse and St. John’s have already agreed to play through 2015.
Regardless of if the Syracuse-UConn series is continued past this season, that last true form of the rivalry was played Wednesday night.
“Your biggest rivalries are going to be against the teams in your league,” said Boeheim.
Boeheim cited two examples: St. Bonaventure and Louisville. Before the Big East was formed, St. Bonaventure was the biggest game of the year, now the Orange and Bonnies have gone years without playing one another. He went on to mention Louisville as a new rival, since the Cardinals joined the league in 2005.
“Even if you play somebody it will never be the same,” said Boeheim.
Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne
The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.
The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.
They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.
That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.
Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:
With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.
At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes
“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:
“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”
“It’s all money.”
Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.
Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .
Want to talk about coaching luxuries?
Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.