Well, this is it I guess. Thirty-three years after Syracuse and UConn teamed up to found the Big East, the two teams will meet tonight for the last time as members of that conference. In those 33 years the two have combined for four national titles, seven trips to the Final Four, twelve Big East Tournament titles and countless great games. And it ends tonight.
Syracuse figures to have the upper hand in this one. While UConn has struggled with defections from last year's roster, Syracuse has, if anything, improved. As a kicker, tonight's game will be their second since senior forward James Southerland was cleared to return to their lineup. Southerland is a dangerous shooter who makes the entire Orange offense run better, and will be tough for anyone on the Huskies to contain, let alone stop.
To make things even trickier, as the Orange regained a player UConn lost one, as junior center Enosch Wolf has been suspended after his arrest Monday morning. Wolf wasn't a starter, but he had outplayed classmate Tyler Olander over the past month and UConn simply played better when he was on the floor. The burden of his absence will fall on Olander, along with little-used freshman Phil Nolan, who figures to see the most playing time of his young career tonight. And if either of those two get in foul trouble? Well then get ready to see a very, very small lineup from UConn -- and you might see a lot of that even without the fouls.
That's not to say tonight's game is unwinnable, but it is certainly going to be a stiff, stiff challenge. If UConn hopes to compete they'll need all three of Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels to be playing at their absolute best, and a healthy dose of accurate long-range shooting would do a lot to help.
The game tips off from the XL Center at 7 p.m. ESPN has your television coverage. This is your OpenThread. Go Huskies, and remember: take the stairs because escalators are for cowards.