When UConn forward Alex Oriakhi got up from the postgame presser Friday night, he let out an “oh, man. Oh, shoot” as a moved his sore body from the podium to the hallway, where another 20 minutes of interviews awaited him.
He was achy, and he admitted it.
There’s a concern for Connecticut about the repercussions of playing five games in five days. Not in terms of playing for the Big East title, which it will do Saturday night at 9 p.m., but for the long-term effects of the NCAA tournament.
There’s no precedence for a five-games-in-five-days run. So, going forward, as good as this is, if Connecticut loses in the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, this gauntlet will be blamed — right or wrong — as much as anything else. That’s the distraction (?) Connecticut has to deal with.
Its opponent, Louisville, has no such side chatter. A team that’s not exactly rife with future NBA players has continued to win and make Rick Pitino look like one of the smartest coaches in the game. Some have said this is Pitino’s best coaching job. Pitino himself stated after Louisville’s win over Cincinnati Thursday night that he hasn’t had this much fun with a group since 1987, when he coached Providence to the Final Four.
Saturday night in Madison Square Garden, we’ll be treated to the first Big East title game to feature teams who have multiple national titles. And both teams are certainly steaming heading into this. You’ve got UConn with its four-game winning streak and all that mojo Kemba Walker brings; and Louisville charges in after it overcame its largest halftime deficit this season in its win over Notre Dame Friday night.
Some think this is a pretty unpredictable Big East final, and in a way, yes, but think about it: Connecticut is undefeated, 7-0, in tournament-format games so far this season. So, from that perspective, the Huskies’ appearance isn’t all that shocking. And Louisville hasn’t looked bad all that much this season. Both teams will be seeded fifth or better in the tournament. This isn’t a couple of lightweights, not by any means.
The guard matchup should be fantastic, as Preston Knowles and Peyton Siva (right) will line up against Walker and Shabazz Napier. The game will most definitely be won or lost on the play of the boys in the backcourt, it seems.
A final thought to leave you with. Will we get one more overtime game? If that happens, it will be a Big East tournament record. Enough of them have already been broken this year — what’s one more?
Posted by Matt Norlander
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