(which is probably something that actually happens, now that I think about it)
I want to publicly thank the Providence Friars Basketball Club Inc. for giving Syracuse a bit of a dogfight last night. They tested SU on both ends of the floor, and gave them a good solid Big East Conference road game challenge. Specifically, they forced SU to make plays. Providence played a clean game. They didn’t turn the ball over much, at least not without SU forcing them to. When SU gave them an open look, they usually hit the shot. So SU had to tighten their defense, contest shots and create turnovers. When the Orange had the ball, Providence played a variety of defenses (even switching from one defense to another partway through a possession on many occasions) and made SU work in the halfcourt for good shots. The difference in the game was that SU made a ton of their shots. But it wasn’t that PC was playing terrible defense as much as it was that SU was executing a crisp offense and had too many weapons on the floor at all times. They were finding the mismatch or the open man, moving the ball and hitting their open shots. In a lot of the games this season, SU has been able to… not coast, exactly, but kind of just bide their time and trust that their opponent will make plenty of mistakes while they (SU) will only make a few. This game was more evenly matched in the mistake category (and the referees helped to make it “more even” by tilting measurably towards the home team). So SU had to step up their game. And step it up they did.
In the postgame, Jim Boeheim said the following, after expressing his deep admiration for Dave Gavitt and what he accomplished in building the Big East. It sums up my feelings on conference realignment perfectly:
If [the Big East] could have just stayed basketball, we could have had the greatest basketball league ever, forever. But unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.