Unless it was for the conference championship.
But Syracuse vs. Connecticut in a Friday night semifinal will have to suffice. After the Orange held off St. John’s in Thursday afternoon’s late tilt, winning 79-73, it set up what’s sure to be the most anticipated game around the country Friday.
After all, this is Syracuse vs. UConn, the neo super rivalry in the Big East. Most notably, it’s the first meeting between the two teams in Big East tournament play since that six-overtime game two years ago made every sports writer and editor in New York City work until 4 in the morning.
The dream draw came to fruition after the afternoon started with Kemba Walker banging home a game-winning shot against Pittsburgh. Syracuse was waiting in the tunnel when Walker hit the shot that knocked Pitt out. The Orange’s Scoop Jardine said when he heard the crowd erupt, he knew Walker was the one who took the shot.
The Orange has to avoid presenting Walker with a similar scenario around 9 p.m. Friday night. There’ s a very good chance it won’t come to that. Outside of the weak odds a game comes down to the final shot, consider: In the teams’ only other meeting this season, on Feb. 2, Syracuse won at Connecticut, 66-58. It was arguably Walker’s worst game of the season. In fact, there’s not much to argue: his eight points were the lowest total for Walker this season, and the only time he didn’t reach double digits.
“You always learn from a game, whether your win or lose,” Syracuse’s Kris Joseph said. “I know they learned some things and they’ll make sure they don’t make the same mistakes. What we’re going to do is make sure we play Kemba the same way we did.”
Boeheim considers that result an outlier on Connecticut’s season.
“I don’t take anything out of the [last] Connecticut game,” Boeheim said. “I don’t think they played well, Kemba had probably his worst night of the year, and we know that won’t happen tomorrow night.”
A story line many members of the media discussed inside Madison Square Garden was the fatigue issue. Syracuse will be playing its second game of the tournament, while UConn’s gearing up for its fourth. Usually, that fourth day is when the legs get caught. But Boeheim will be primarily worried with Walker, and he doesn’t expect him to be slowed one bit.
“They’re a team that can do that,” Boeheim said. “Kemba Walker can play eight nights in a row, and they play a lot of guys and I don’t see that being a factor tomorrow night at all. I mean, the year we won four games we were playing six guys and it was a factor.”
If you’re hoping for a coda to the 2009 game, you’re certainly not alone. Once players starting taking questions in the locker room, postgame, the overtime questions and resets on one of the most epic games in Big East history were flying. Let the record show: no one wants to play 70 minutes of basketball again.
“Hopefully not,” Joseph said. Let’s get it done in regulation. … I mean, one overtime would be all right — but not six.”
Even if it only goes to one overtime, the matchup will have exceeded the billing. It’s Syracuse and UConn on a Friday night in March at Madison Square Garden. The fan bases will flood the area surrounding 4 Pennsylvania Plaza and get the city whirring with excitement well before tip-off.
Posted by Matt Norlander
|More College Basketball coverage|