Wednesday night’s No. 12 Louisville (20-4, 8-4 ACC)-Syracuse (16-9, 7-5 ACC) game will not have the same flavor as their recent tussles as Big East rivals. But the intrigue factor in the matchup? Still very much on the high end, especially for all you fans of reality television. With Chris Jones’ suspension coming on the heels of Louisville’s first bad loss of the season, a 74-65 home loss to an NC State team with a losing record in a not-that-good ACC, it’s put up or shut up time for a Louisville team that still has a very real shot of making it to a Final Four. On the other end of the spectrum, Syracuse’s self-imposed postseason ban has given Jim Boeheim’s squad two basic options: give up on this hopeless season; or, adopt a college football mindset and treat each game as if it were a bowl game where things like pride and heart and countless other football buzz words will be brought up to sugarcoat the fact that Syracuse’s games just mean less because they’re not that close to “the big-time” (sorry San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, you’ll just never be the Rose Bowl.) If you’ve ever seen Boeheim coach, smart money is that this team will make good on one of their imagined bowl game scenarios and send another fanbase into panic for once.
Could the tormented fanbase turn out to be that of Rick Pitino’s team? It certainly seems possible, almost like destiny, after the Jones suspension. With freshman and Louisville native Quentin Snider set to make his first start on the road against a renewed rival, this game certainly seems like an interesting one for the gamblers of the college basketball world. But with Terry Rozier and Montrezl Harrell each turning in sub-par performances in the loss to NC State, Louisville would also seem due for a rebound game. And while I must qualify this next statement by saying that it can never be a good thing to have your starting point guard suspended this close to tournament time (or really any time for that matter), but if this Louisville team is going to find any production from its bench, it would seem that this would be an ideal situation for someone to emerge.
For Syracuse fans, this is an excellent matchup to look at from the bowl game lense: you get the chance to watch your team compete against a top-flight program, which will let you know a lot about how your players (Kaleb Joseph and Trevor Cooney will certainly be important for ‘Cuse’s tournament chances next season) stack up against some of the best players in the country; you get the chance to see your team take down a team that has caused you plenty of pain over the years; and you get a chance to make a memory during this confusing tour of dismay that has become this basketball season for fans in central New York. It may not mean much in the grand scheme of things, but games like this are what make college basketball worth watching, whether they influence the bracket or not.
*Section Photo credit to Grant Halverson, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Jamie Rhodes, USA Today Sports.