A Reason To Not Turn Off Those Blowout Big East Games

For the football fans among us there's that big void on Monday nights now that football is gone. Thankfully we've got the Big East slate served up on Big Monday, because if it's a conference game with these schools, it will go down to the end. Your latest example: Monday night's visit by Villanova to Louisville. ↵

↵Louisville led by 17 (38-21) with 5:43 remaining in the first half. But when it was all said and done, it was Villanova that claimed the win, 92-84. (*I'll get to how that lead evaporated at the end of this post.) Nova took a huge step in a loaded conference by winning on the road and becoming the first team in the league to get to four wins in the Big East. They're also one of just two unbeatens in the conference. Pitt is the other, and gets its shot to run to 4-0 against UConn on Wednesday. ↵

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↵But this blowout's dramatic swing was just the latest example of dramatic swings in Big East play. Take a step back to Saturday's action: Notre Dame pulled out a two-point home win against West Virginia and Villanova did the same against Marquette. Why is that significant? Both teams that held on for narrow wins held 22-point home leads, only to nearly have them snatched away in the final seconds. One team wasn't that lucky. UConn held a 19-point lead late in the first half against Georgetown on Saturday ... right up until Austin Freeman went off for the Hoyas. He scored 28 of his 33 in the second half to rally Georgetown to a three-point win. ↵

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↵There are two lessons to be learned: the Big East is every bit as entertaining as it was last season, just in a different way. It's still strong at the top and has two teams capable of earning No. 1 seeds -- West Virginia and Villanova -- but it also has a stronger middle. (Let's all just choose to ignore those ugly few bottom teams.) The second thing to learn is that nothing is every really out of reach in games between those middle-and-upper echelon clubs. Sure, a few of them will get chewed up through league play, but appreciate the league's wildly entertaining start while you can. ↵

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↵*A few brief thoughts on the implosion of Louisville. As a few people pointed out on Twitter, maybe it was the case of their defense not matching up with the refs. There was an absurd number of fouls called both ways, but Rick Pitino defenses are known for being a bit handsy and physical. Still, 94 free throws between the two teams. So while that probably rattled the Cards a bit, there's no excuse for the decision making down the stretch. ↵

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↵Samardo Samuels was playing an exceptional game, and despite being a 69 percent free throw shooter on the year, he'd hit 13-of-13 attempts on Monday night. Yet after his two freebies with 3:15 remaining, he couldn't get the rock to save his life. Louisville had two trips down the floor under three minutes, trialing by 3, when the team failed to capitalize on numerous opportunities to enter the ball into Samuels. This should've been a given anyway against a team so gifted on the wing, but the error of not getting the ball to Samuels is even more glaring on a night he was so hot. Instead, the Cardinals took unsuccessful 3-pointers on both possessions. They finished the night 7-of-34 from deep and really wasted a great chance to start a surprising 4-0 in the Big East. Also, it's worth noting that while Louisville ignored their hot hand, Nova fed theirs -- Scottie Reynolds. He finished with 36 points and took over late. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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