Rick Pitino is morally corrupt. He’s delusional and self-involved. He also owns Jim Boeheim. It’s like gargling with tacks to write those words, but it’s the unfortunate truth. Slick Rick has knocked off Syracuse at every turn. He’s won the last 7 straight in this Big East rock fight: four at Louisville, two at the Carrier Dome, one in the Big East Tournament.
So, when the Cardinals host the Orange at the idiotically named YUM! Center tonight, it becomes yet another referendum on just how different this SU team really is. Syracuse has far more depth that last season. It carries more would-be leading scorers. SU has committed to defense far more than its predecessor. The Orange has bought into everything Boeheim has preached. There is an interior force SU has not had in years.
But can it beat Louisville? The Fizz ranked the Cardinals atop the list of the 5 worst matchups for Syracuse in March. As Kris Joseph described UofL:
“They play tough. They’ve got shooters, they’ve got inside presence. They move the ball really well.”
All of which makes the Cards a dangerous matchup for SU. But there’s plenty of reasons this Orange squad is different and better suited for challenges like this one (listed above). In many ways, this is a “no lose” for Syracuse. A road defeat to a hot Louisville team, which has the Orange number, is nothing to be embarrassed by. But exorcising the demons and walking out of the YUM! victorious? Well, then we would know karma has stamped this season as special, and the Orange would have passed yet another stiff test.
There’s more history with Georgetown. There’s a neighbor-state hatred of UConn. But no Big East matchup feels quite like the morality play as the Louisville game. Boeheim has been the neighborhood hardware store owner; staying true to his upstate New York roots, choosing to remain at Syracuse for four decades, building a program inch by inch. Pitino has been the real estate developer; jumping from city to city, leaving programs in the lurch every few years, searching for the next big pay day, while putting himself above all.
Pitino’s a snake. But he’s also got Boeheim’s number. Hopefully, good prevails over evil tonight.