first_img Published on March 3, 2010 at 12:00 pm Comments The crowd at Freedom Hall In front of Syracuse Saturday will be a Louisville team hungry for a season sweep. A Cardinals team hanging onto the NCAA Tournament bubble that could stamp its ticket by beating the No. 1 team in the nation. And surrounding the Orange will be a crowd that has the potential to be one of the most raucous of the year — and possibly the decade.When Syracuse rolls into Louisville on Saturday at 2 p.m., it will play in the last game at Freedom Hall, the historic basketball arena and host to the Cardinals since 1956 — the team will be moving to a new downtown arena next year. ‘Whew, that’ll be a good one,’ Wes Johnson said following Tuesday’s victory over St. John’s. ‘We gotta stay focused and get ready for them on Saturday.’ To be one of the 18,865 packed inside the Kentucky Exposition Center would be a near impossibility, as the game has become nothing short of a state holiday. Last Sunday, the Louisville Courier-Journal put out a 12-page specialty section on the arena alone — the host of six NCAA Final Fours and the keeper of what some call ‘the best playing surface in all of basketball.’So with that, the Orange will walk into the extremely hostile environment with nothing really to prove except for keeping the only undefeated road mark in NCAA basketball intact, while the Cardinals will still be conscious of their tournament resume. But will it have an effect on the game? If there’s one thing Syracuse has shown this year, it’s a great deal of composure when dealing with these situations. Take, for example, the road environment at West Virginia. The WVU Coliseum crowd was packed over the Orange and roared until the final minutes, trying to propel the Mountaineers to a big statement Big East win. Just like a similar tightly packed crowd at Notre Dame inside the Joyce Center nearly blew the Orange off its game in a tight road win in South Bend, Ill. Through it all, though, the Orange has maintained a pretty level head. ‘That’s the thing about this team and that’s the thing about Coach Boeheim — he never lets us get too high, never lets us get too low,’ sophomore guard Scoop Jardine said. ‘He’s been doing this for so long and he’s seen this plenty of times and for him to keep us that way has kind of rubbed off on us.’ Given the atmosphere, though, Freedom Hall may be an entirely different animal. Depending on how the Cardinals perceive their NCAA future, and how wild — not sentimental — the sellout crowd will be, things could get interesting. [email protected] By Matt EhaltStaff WriterWill Syracuse play the backups and rest? There is very little for No.1 Syracuse to gain against Louisville Saturday at Freedom Hall. The outright Big East championship has already been clinched. Syracuse will be playing as the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament. Even if it loses to the Cardinals and its first game in the Big East tournament, it should still be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. So here’s the most important aspect of Saturday’s game: stay healthy and rest the starters. Time to let the backups in.Injuries are the nightmares that coaches have. Look no further than Purdue. The Boilermakers were favored to win the Big Ten tournament and challenge for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. In a road game at Minnesota, Robbie Hummel tore his ACL, and the Boilermakers will now have to fight in the NCAA Tournament. After an extensive and grueling Big East season, it may be time to let the starters get some rest. Wes Johnson has been battling injuries throughout the season. Arinze Onuaku’s knees probably could use some rest going into the final games of his collegiate career. Andy Rautins plays more than 30 minutes per night and will be doing such all through the Big East and NCAA tournaments. These guys could use a game to let the legs get fresh. The Big East tournament is arguably the most grueling conference tournament in the country. For the Orange, it will be up to three days facing elite teams on back-to-back nights. There is no rest. The Big East tournament is a test of will. With that tournament just five days after the Louisville game, there’s no reason to have the starters play more than 30 minutes. They deserve a break. After all, they are the league champions.This will also give the backups a chance to get some valuable game action in case of an emergency come tournament time. We all saw what happened at Georgetown when Onuaku and Rick Jackson fouled out and freshman DaShonte Riley tried to guard Greg Monroe in the waning minutes of the game. He wasn’t ready for it. Imagine if that situation arises again in the NCAA or Big East tournament? Better to let them get a little experience under their belts.Syracuse only plays a seven-man rotation, but if a situation arises like the Georgetown game where the Orange is in foul trouble, there could be a need for Riley or James Southerland to step in and play some minutes. Saturday may help boost their [email protected] Tyler DunneManaging EditorAdvertisementThis is placeholder textCan Syracuse generate offense against the Cardinals’ D?The last time Syracuse and Louisville met, the game slowed to a crawl. SU’s run-and-gun fast break was nonexistent. Players were stagnant in the half-court offense. Every possession was a journey. Rendered to heaving long balls, Syracuse scored a measly 60 points. So expect offensive urgency on Saturday. Expect Syracuse to attack Louisville’s interior with penetration. In its 66-60 loss to Louisville on Feb. 14, Syracuse settled for 19 3-point attempts. That can’t happen this weekend. Unless Andy Rautins gets hot, Syracuse shouldn’t be complacent from outside in the rematch. Jim Boeheim will demand the Orange to take high-quality shots. Since their last meeting, the offense has rolled — 75 points in Georgetown, 99 in Providence, 95 against Villanova and 85 against St. John’s. Part of the reason is that Rautins hasn’t missed much. But another big part is Boeheim’s gradual shift to Jardine at point guard. With Jardine receiving the bulk of the minutes instead of Triche at the point, the offense is peaking. He brings a flare of creativity that benefits those around him. Jardine’s late-game gaffe against Connecticut seems like a distant memory. For now, the doghouse is miles away. He is seeing the court in key moments.‘Coach has a lot of trust out there in the team and also gets on me when I make mistakes,’ Jardine said. ‘He has trust in me to make the right play at the right time for us to be successful. So I’m just happy I’m getting the minutes. I’ll continue to work in practice and keep my minutes where they’re at.’Outside of him, Kris Joseph continues to attack the rim, too. Against St. John’s, he refused to lean on his maturing jump shot. Instead, he drove to the hole, was often fouled and made 11-of-12 free throws.There’s no reason Syracuse should pump up a surplus of 3-pointers. Options abound on SU’s offense — balance is the reason it is averaging almost 82 points per game (fifth-best in the nation). Reeling off his seven top guns — as he has so much this season — Boeheim was a broken record Tuesday night. Syracuse has too many weapons for defenses to account for. Reluctant to shower his team with praise at times, Boeheim pointed to the raw data. ‘Field-goal percentage, we are up there at the top,’ Boeheim said. ‘I think we are leading the conference in steals. Assists, we are leading the conference. If you look at all of those categories, we should win.’And Syracuse will on Saturday if it slices through the heart of Louisville’s defense. [email protected]center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more