Previewing the Big East semis, as if this tourney hasn’t been good enough

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Its 3:00 am on Friday morning.

I’ve seen 12 Big East Tournament basketball games in the last three days.

We had one game go to overtime when a three pointer was hit with 1.0 second left. We had a No. 15 seed win for the first time in the history of the Big East tournament when their point guard that averages 4.0 ppg scored four points in the final 23 seconds. We had a game that ended with the refs swallowing their whistles in the final 30 seconds and ignoring a player traveling, running out of bounds, and throwing the ball into the stands with time still on the clock, resulting in the refs withdrawing from the rest of the tournament. We had an all-american hitting a buzzer beater to knock off the No. 1 seed.

And we haven’t even gotten to the semifinals.

Tonight, the competition kicks off with arguably the best game of the tournament. UConn and Syracuse will do battle in the Big East Tournament for the first time since the two teams played their <a href=”http://www.ballinisahabit.net/2009/03/syracuse-beats-uconn-playing-their-way.html”>epic, six overtime quarterfinal</a> game. Read that link. That’s my post from the stands of the 2009 game. Expect to be inundated with articles remembering that games throughout the day.

But the ironic part is that with the exception of the names on the front of the jerseys and the coaches roaming the sidelines, tonight’s matchup is a completely different cast of characters.

The key to this game will be how UConn handles the Syracuse zone. In the first matchup back in Hartford, the Orange stifled and frustrated Walker, preventing him from finding any driving lanes, forcing him into one of his worst performances of the season.

That said, the Orange are also going to have to figure a way to keep UConn from getting to the offensive glass. Playing with just one post player and with Roscoe Smith sitting most of the game after catching an elbow to the face and getting eight stitches, UConn dominated the offensive glass for the last fifteen minutes of the game. The Cuse will need another good performance out of both Fab Melo and CJ Fair.

The best part about tomorrow’s UConn-Syracuse game is that it will be followed up by Notre Dame and Louisville, another matchup of top 15 teams.

The Cardinals and the Irish play at a very different pace and with a very different style, but the premise is the same. Offensively, what they look to do is to spread the floor, penetrate gaps, and get the ball out to open shooters. Both teams are incredibly unselfish in that way. Expect a lot of extra passes to be made and even more three pointers to be taken.

Defensively, Louisville is going to look to pressure Notre Dame and force them into turnovers. The Irish are generally pretty good at protecting the ball. With a senior laden lineup, that is to be expected. If they can avoid the turnovers an avoid allowing the Cardinals to go on their patented runs, the Irish should be able to win this game.

Ahh, life in the Big East.

Where every game is a top 20 battle.

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