Syracuse Orange vs. Louisville Cardinals (-4.5, 124.5)
As a founding member of the Big East, Syracuse’s consistent excellence has contributed greatly to the conference’s rise as an elite league since its formation in 1980. Louisville has stolen the Orange’s thunder in conference tournament play recently, however – a trend Syracuse will try to change Saturday when they meet as Big East rivals for the final time in the championship game at Madison Square Garden. Syracuse will leave for the ACC next season while the Cardinals will join them in 2014.
Louisville is playing for the tournament title for the third straight year – and fourth in its last five seasons – while the No. 20 Orange is in the championship game for the first time since 2009. The No. 4 Cardinals, who defeated Syracuse for their first Big East tournament championship that year, are on a nine-game winning streak after Friday’s semifinal victory over Notre Dame. The Orange ended the regular season with four losses in five games, but have won three straight at this event in large part due to exceptional 3-point shooting (28-for-52).
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
ABOUT SYRACUSE (26-8): James Southerland hit four 3-pointers and is 16-for-25 beyond the arc in three tournament games. The 16 3-pointers moved him into a tie with Orange assistant coach Gerry McNamara - a former Syracuse star - for the tournament record. C.J. Fair also achieved a bit of history, passing the 1,000-point mark with an emphatic dunk in overtime. Little-used Trevor Cooney contributed 10 points off the bench Friday – one point more than he had scored in the previous seven games combined. Fellow reserve Baye Keita scored 13 points and went 7-for-7 from the foul line despite entering the game as a 48.6 percent foul shooter.
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (28-5): Peyton Siva, last year’s tournament MVP, put on a dazzling defensive display Friday. His seven steals tied a career high, matched a tournament record held by 10 other players and allowed him to break Darrell Griffith’s school record for career steals. Following the game, coach Rick Pitino said, “Siva kept bailing us out one rotation after another. He’s just an incredible player.” The Cardinals recorded 11 steals against the Irish – their 24th game with at least 10. Leading scorer Russ Smith went 3-for-4 from the foul line and has made 179 foul shots, breaking Wes Unseld’s single-season school record of 177 from the 1967-68 season.
* Cardinals are 6-0 ATS in their last six games overall.
* Cardinals are 6-0 ATS in their last six vs. Big East foes.
* Orange are 1-5 ATS in their last six Saturday games.
1. Louisville has won six straight games in the Big East tournament, which is the fifth-longest winning streak in the event’s history.
2. Syracuse is 50-28 all-time in the tournament and will be playing in its 15th Big East championship game.
3. The Cardinals’ average margin of victory is 13.7 points during their winning streak.