Louisville-Syracuse Matchup Looms Large In The Big Picture

LOUISVILLE/SYRACUSE EARLY SATURDAY WILL IMPACT BIG DANCE SEEDING

Welcome to March! It was thought for much of the season that Saturday's Louisville/Syracuse showdown (airing at noon ET on CBS) would determine the Big East champion. For awhile Louisville was at the top of the Big East. Syracuse upset them in Kentucky, which was the catalyst for a reversal of fortune that launched Syracuse into the national consciousness. That faded with a recent slump, and now we have...

BIG EAST LEADERS
Georgetown 12-3
Marquette 11-4
Louisville 11-4
Notre Dame 10-5
Syracuse 10-5

Saturday's showdown isn't for the Big East title (which Louisville still has time to win), it's much more about seeding in the Big East tournament in a couple of weeks...then in the NCAA Tournament that will be here before you know it.

JOE LUNARDI'S BRACKETOLOGY
Louisville: projected #3 seed
Syracuse: projected #4 seed

Given the upsets of the last few days, Louisville has a very good chance of moving back up to a #2 seed by season's end if they can win Saturday in the Carrierdome. Syracuse can reverse its recent downward trend (keyed by losses to Georgetown and Marquette) and move back into consideration for a #3 or better with an impressive win. You'll see in a moment that the computers we've been following this season in the NOTEBOOK still think very highly of both of these teams. Saturday's winner will grade out even better because of this impressive scalp.

Let's run this much anticipated Big East thriller through our gauntlet of indicator stats. We've already touched on Bracketology so we'll leave that part out.

WON-LOST RECORDS
Louisville: 23-5 (11-4 in the Big East)
Syracuse: 22-6 (10-5 in the Big East)

It's odd to say that those are disappointing records. It's a competitive year and these are cream of the crop teams. Yet, you know the head coaches are disappointed with the nine combined league losses, which will be 10 after today. Louisville was positioned to compete with Indiana and Florida a few weeks ago, and have had to wait for those two to fall back to the pack. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim is so frustrated that he's snapping at reporters again. That's one of our treasured March Madness traditions!

COMPUTER RANKINGS
Louisville: #2 with Sagarin, #3 with Pomeroy
Syracuse: #11 with Sagarin, #9 with Pomeroy

Jeff Sagarin of USA Today, and college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy both have Louisville in the range of a #1 seed! They've rallied since their three-game conference slide. And, the teams who had been in front of them have suffered some slides of their won. Syracuse is respected as well, sitting in the #3 range with both computers. The math respects the Big East this year...and some pundits have recently begun suggested that the league has pulled even with the Big 10 in terms of "at-the-moment" form. If the computers are right, what you're seeing Saturday is an Elite Eight caliber matchup!

COMPUTER STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANKINGS
Louisville: #17 with Sagarin, #20 with Pomeroy
Syracuse: #36 with Sagarin, #36 with Pomeroy

Louisville has played the tougher schedule, which will serve them well from this point forward. They're battle tested, humbled, and toughened in a way that sets them up for the tournaments. But, if they don't come through here...after not coming through at Notre Dame...the players will certainly be lacking confidence away from home. Syracuse played a lot of early creampuffs...but playing in a killer conference still earns them a top 40 schedule.

WON-LOST RECORDS VS. SAGARIN'S TOP 50
Louisville: 6-5
Syracuse: 5-5

Pretty even here...and, frankly, bad news if you're thinking about these teams going the distance in the Dance. Right now they're coin flip teams vs. quality. Tough to ask "heads" to come up four times a row in the Big Dance. If you disagree with the computer rankings...here's your arsenal. How can Louisville be #2 or #3 in the country if they're only 6-5 vs. top 50 opposition? Handicappers need to study Saturday's meeting very closely to see if Louisville really has what it takes under pressure.

POMEROY'S ADJUSTED OFFENSE RANKINGS
Louisville: #21
Syracuse: #14

Now the chess match. These rankings reflect scoring adjusted for pace and caliber of defense. Both teams are top 25 offenses...which would typically serve them well unless they ran into a great defense in the Dance (and both will be running into challenge defenses Saturday!). Both teams have had a knack this year for scoring easily vs. bad defenses, but hitting speed bumps vs. quality. You saw what happened to Syracuse last week vs. Georgetown, and then down the stretch Monday Night vs. Marquette. They weren't, in those situations, playing like the nation's #14 ranked offense. The numbers say slight edge to Syracuse.

POMEROY'S ADJUSTED DEFENSE RANKINGS
Louisville: #1
Syracuse: #13

But, the numbers here say slight edge to Louisville in a way that gives it right back. And, you can make the case that the Cardinals enjoy an even bigger advantage because this is the second time they'll have seen the Syracuse zone. The more you see it, the easier it is to beat. So, the Syracuse offense will be facing a Louisville defense that's best in the nation and always tough. The Louisville offense will be facing a defense that gets easier to beat the more you see it.

POMEROY'S ADJUSTED TEMPO RANKINGS
Louisville: #122
Syracuse: #176

Louisville is faster than average. Syracuse is pretty close to average, which will make them the slower team in this matchup. Both coaches are known to slow things down in big games because of their tendency to micromanage. The game may play out slower than the pace factors above would suggest. That would favor the host because its less of a transition for them. Louisville only slows down when they're in trouble, which often makes things worse.

BEST EXPECTATION
Great game...and we've already seen how tough it can be in the Big East to pin down a "best expectation" on a game. If Syracuse is down in the dumps, they could get embarrassed at home once again by a team that has a meaningful revenge. It's possible to imagine an EASY Louisville win if everything falls into place against a disheartened Syracuse zone. That being said, Louisville couldn't win at Notre Dame, or Villanova, or Georgetown. They tend to lose their composure late in close games. Syracuse could easily right the ship and post an impressive score.

JIM HURLEY knows you're interested in this game. But, he also knows you're interested in A LOT OF GAMES on this amazing weekend schedule. He only put his clients on the very best college and NBA options on the board from Friday through Sunday. You can purchase those MONSTERS right here at the website with your credit card. If you want to talk to a representative about longer term service, you can do that by calling us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

As we've been telling you all week...Saturday's schedule is LOADED. We'll provide preview briefs here in the NOTEBOOK next time for:

Miami at Duke
Arizona at UCLa
Wichita tate at Creighton
Butler at VCU
Notre Dame at Marquette

Sunday we'll have room to go in depth for Michigan State at Michigan.

MARCH has arrived...and the schedule is already MADNESS! Be sure you turn MARCH MADNESS into MONEY MADNESS with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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