Big East trifecta?

No. 5 Louisville completed their Big East Championship sweep Saturday night with a 76-66 win over Syracuse in the Big East Tournament championship game. The Cardinals appear a lock for a No. 1 NCAA seed. The big question heading into Selection Sunday: Do Pittsburgh and UConn also get No. 1 seeds?

The Big East trifecta.

When the seedings are finally revealed on Sunday night after a season of upsets, parity and general upheaval, the strongest conference in America should be rewarded.

With three No. 1 seeds.

"I think it's a distinct possibility," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said after pulling off the improbable twin killing by winning the tournament title to go along with the regular-season crown. "If it happens, it'll be well-deserved."

Pittsburgh and Louisville out of the Big East appear to be virtual locks for No. 1 seeds. North Carolina will likely get one out of the ACC.

Then the final No. 1 seed will likely go to either UConn, Memphis or Duke — and the Blue Devils will be under consideration if they win the ACC tournament on Sunday afternoon.

UConn's resume is strong. The Huskies were 27-4 and had a 15-3 conference mark. Two of the losses came to Pittsburgh, one came at home to Georgetown and the final setback was in the Big East quarterfinals against Syracuse.

UConn has eight wins this season against the top 45 teams in the RPI.

Memphis has two.

"I think UConn is still the best team in the Big East," Syracuse junior guard Paul Harris said. "But Louisville is still a very good team. They deserve a No. 1 seed."

Louisville's Jerry Smith echoed the sentiment.

"They definitely deserve one," Smith said of the Huskies.

Memphis, like UConn, also lost to Georgetown — and suffered setbacks to Xavier and Syracuse. John Calipari's team has just two resume victories — against Gonzaga and Tennessee.

Louisville now looks ahead to a No. 1
NCAA seed after winning the
Big East Tournament title.

Sure, it's been awhile since the Tigers lost — but it's extremely difficult to evaluate where they're at while they're playing in the one-bid Conference USA.

Duke has six wins against the RPI's Top 45, but the Blue Devils have dropped six games — two to North Carolina, plus Wake Forest, Clemson, Michigan and Boston College.

Louisville wasn't even considered a Top 25 team on New Year's Eve and now they can make a valid case they're the best team in the country heading into the Big Dance.

"I love the fact that we did it in the toughest year in the history of the Big East," Pitino said.

A couple months ago, there was legitimate cause for concern. The Cardinals had lost three games — none of them true "road" contests — to a trio of what were perceived to be mediocre teams.

Western Kentucky and Minnesota on neutral courts — and then UNLV at Freedom Hall.

"We were learning how to play with each other," Louisville freshman big man Samardo Samuels said. "Coach P (Pitino) kept telling us we had to re-evaluate ourselves."

"But that loss to Minnesota was tough," Samuels added. ``I had never heard of any of those guys. When we lost, things were bad."

It all started to change on Jan. 4 when the Kentucky Wildcats came to Freedom Hall. It took a last-second shot from Edgar Sosa to hang onto the victory.

That began a string of nine consecutive wins — which included home victories against Pittsburgh and West Virginia and road wins over Villanova and Syracuse.

However, even after winning the regular-season crown, there were plenty of skeptics. There were head coaches in the league who questioned their league schedule and not having to face the two elite teams — Pittsburgh and UConn — on the road.

Now, after ending Syracuse's magical Big East tournament run on Saturday night, Pitino's team has as much claim as anyone to the top seed in the NCAA tournament.

I'm not just talking about a No. 1 seed. I'm talking about the No. 1.

You know, the one that gets to draw the SWAC vs. whoever winner in the play-in game.

"Oh, yeah," Louisville forward Earl Clark said while celebrating on the court after the 76-66 victory against the Orange. "Definitely. We won both in the best conference in America."

Louisville, which had been putrid in the Big East tournament since joining the league in 2006, was the lone regular-season champion in a BCS league that even advanced to its conference championship game.

North Carolina, Kansas, Washington, Michigan State and LSU were all upset.

"We saw all the No. 1s lose and we were trying not to be another statistic," Louisville senior Terrence Williams said.

But, in fact, that's exactly what they may have become. A record-setting one.

Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for He can be reached at

Cardinal Authority Top Stories