It’s fitting, really.
In the final Big East Tournament of the modern era (and, yes, I am allowed to call it the modern era because), no one from the original Big East made it to the tournament final. Cincinnati knocked off both Syracuse and Georgetown while Louisville drubbed both Marquette and Notre Dame en route to the title game.
The symbolism cannot be ignored. With Syracuse, Pitt and West Virginia all leaving the conference, to be replaced by, among other, SMU, Central Florida, Houston and Memphis, the Big East is starting to look more and more like Conference USA 2.0. Louisville and Cincinnati both came over from Conference USA back in 2005. Like I said, the way the tournament played out is fitting.
It’s also a bit head-scratching.
Louisville has had a tremendously inconsistent season. While they have been able to lock up defensively, the Cardinals have had quite a bit of difficulty finding a way to put together any kind of consistent offense. Their three-point shooters aren’t shooting threes well and their play-making point guard has struggled to make plays. That’s not a good combination.
But during the tournament, things have changed. After surviving Seton Hall in their first game, Louisville ran through Final Four threat Marquette before thumping Notre Dame in the semifinals. Peyton Siva’s numbers: 15.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 7.5 apg and 2.5 spg. That has to continue.
Cincinnati may have had a more impressive run to the final. After knocking off Georgetown in a thrilling, double-overtime game, the Bearcats caught fire early and hung on late as they handed Syracuse their first loss on the season with Fab Melo in the lineup.
If you’ve been paying attention, than you should know about Sean Kilpatrick and Dion Dixon. Those two have been terrific ever since the brawl, and that much hasn’t changed in New York. The same can be said for Cashmere Wright, who is slowly but surely solidifying his standing among the Big East’s best floor generals. The difference for the Bearcats has been Yancy Gates, who has finally, after four years, started to play like the dominating presence we all knew he could be.
I’m expecting a terrific game from these two teams. They are both peaking at the right time, they both like to get out in the full court, they both pressure the ball and they both have a star center patrolling the paint. Not a bad way to cap off the night.