What's better on a Monday night after football season (well, during the NFL playoffs, where all games take place over the weekend) than a pair of marquee matchups from the best conference in basketball where every team on the court is ranked in the top ten of both major polls? If you're anything like me, nothing compares to that. That's what we got yesterday, with Villanova and UConn locking horns in a twilight start at Gampel Pavilion while Syracuse and Pitt turned up the lights and intensity in the nightcap at the Petersen Center. Kemba Walker won the game for the Huskies (raise your hand if you've heard that one before) in the final seconds and Pitt continued their homecourt dominance with an eight-point win over the Orange. What to take from all this, you might ask? Hopefully we can help you with that.
If Bill Raftery had the call of the UConn-Villanova game, that would have certainly been included in the broadcast vernacular after Kemba Walker's latest game-winning shot with 2.5 seconds left provided the final margin in the Huskies' 61-59 win over the Wildcats. While Villanova should be unaffected by this heading into the Carrier Dome for their matchup Saturday night against Syracuse, you never know in the Big East.
No Joseph, no problem.
When it was announced that Syracuse's Kris Joseph would miss the Orange's showdown with Pitt Monday night due to a concussion, I assumed it would turn into a double-digit Panther win. Despite this feeling, I was still surprised to see Pitt open the game on a 19-0 run, and even more surprised to see the 'Cuse come back with a 17-0 stretch of their own to close within two. Pitt ultimately prevailed 74-66, but the Orange come out a moral winner (if there is such a thing) in the sense that they competed much better and harder than initially expected in the absence of their leading scorer. It is still unclear as to whether or not Joseph will be back for the Orange against Villanova this Saturday in the latest renewal of their high-octane, shoot-'em-up rivalry.
Nothing comes closer to home.
If you're a sucker for pointless minutiae like me, you'll recognize that line as the jingle for a line of commercials for Stouffer's frozen entrees in the early to mid-1990s. However, when describing Pittsburgh and their dominance at the Petersen Center, there really isn't a better way to put it. Pitt's latest home victory against Syracuse improved the Panthers to 145-11 all-time at their on-campus venue since its 2002 opening, good enough for a staggering .929 winning percentage. Kansas may have the all-time record for consecutive home wins; and the "tough places to play" can be debated until we're all blue in the face, but when the aforementioned record is thrown into the conversation, there is no doubt (to me at least) where the concept of homecourt advantage rings truer and stronger than any other arena in the country, and it's in the Steel City.