Friday Night Lights

Tonight's Big East semi-finals matchup pits teams picked first, second, third, and fifth, respectively, in the league's pre-season poll.

If you're a fan of the heavyweights, of favorites, and of top programs fighting for supremacy in a conference tournament's final four, Friday night in Manhattan is the place to be.

Since the beginning of the 2006-07 league season, Louisville, Syracuse, and Georgetown are the only Big East teams to win more combined regular season and conference tournament games than Mike Brey's Fighting Irish.

Each of the quartet will be showcased tonight in this, the final edition of the Big East Championship Tournament.

Below is a look at both contests, the first an ode to the dying league's storied past. And in the nightcap? Perhaps the best, and doubtless the most entertaining rivalry of the Big East's final three seasons of existence.

7:00 p.m. #1 Georgetown vs. #5 Syracuse

The Hoyas rank among the nation's best over the last two months, winning 13 of their last 14 games including two over the rival Orange. Syracuse plummeted to conclude the regular season, losing four of five including a 57-56 home loss to the Hoyas followed two weeks later by a 61-39 embarrassment at the Verizon Center in what was billed as the final matchup between the league's preeminent super powers.

That showcase contest is instead tonight, with Syracuse surging behind blistering hot swingman James Southerland, he of the 12 for 15 three-point shooting effort through two tournament wins over Seton Hall and No. 4 seed Pittsburgh. Southerland scored one point in the regular season finale/debacle at Georgetown, missing all eight of his field goal attempts.

Georgetown coaching legend John Thompson, Jr., (1972-99 as the Hoyas head man) added fuel to an already smoldering rivalry fire with a post-game statement following his son's (John Thompson III) win to conclude the regular season by emoting during the post-game press conference: "And kiss Syracuse goodbye!"

(Thompson's comment was likely a historical follow-up reference to his controversial, "Manley Fieldhouse is officially closed" comment when his Hoyas ended the Orange 57-game home court win streak in 1980. Syracuse began playing home games in the Carrier Dome thereafter.)

Said Syracuse guard Brandon Triche following his team's ugly loss to conclude the regular season, "It sucks, but we could play them again in four days or five days. Maybe we'll get another shot at them.''

Be careful what you wish for: Georgetown is 15-1 all-time as the top seed in the Big East Conference Tournament.

Point Spread: The line opened as "Pick 'Em" but quickly moved to Georgetown as a two-point favorite.
Prediction: Hoyas 64 Orange 59

9 p.m. #6 Notre Dame vs. #2 Louisville

For the third time this season, the fifth in the last two and the seventh in the last three years, Mike Brey's Fighting Irish will knock heads with Rick Pitino's Cardinals. Tonight's matchup is the third consecutive season in which the pair have met in the conference semi-finals with Louisville winning both previous, once in overtime after overcoming a 14-point halftime deficit (2011) and last year from wire-to-wire, never challenged in a 64-50 win.

"Here we go again," said Brey following last night's quarterfinals win over Marquette. "When the games have been in overtime, that's when we've gotten our wins. When they've one, they've usually thumped us. I hope it's overtime. They're really good. We just played them last Saturday, and they're playing with a great rhythm, and it comes down to taking care of the ball."

The teams have split their last six matchups.

The defending conference tournament champion Cardinals haven't lost since dropping the oft-referenced five overtime epic to Notre Dame on February 9, winning by 14, 18, 18, 21, 5 (at Syracuse), 16, 16, and 19 points in that span.

Notre Dame has never advanced past the conference semi-finals but are the only Big East team to reach Friday night in four consecutive seasons.

Point Spread: Louisville opened as an 8-point favorite and the line has remained steady through the am hours.
Prediction: Full game preview and prediction forthcoming. Top Stories