Reality finally hit for Syracuse, as Louisville just had more left in the tank and blew them away in the second half of the Big East title fight (which is almost an accurate depiction of most Big East games these days). Louisville’s photo gallery sums up the intensity of the game and the thrill of victory. Still, missing all those layups has to be an issue for Syracuse going into the NCAA Tournament, especially since they might be staring at a trap game/seed for the first round. Louisville, meanwhile, did something seriously impressive. Whatever happens in the Dance, they finished the regular-season in first place alone, and won the conference tournament too. In other words, undisputed Big East champions. Against opponents like the ones they have had to play, that’s saying something even bigger than usual, and Rick Pitino just added another notch to his eventual Hall-of-Fame resume, this time at what is practically his second home.
Meantime, LSU, North Carolina, and Michigan State all fell in their conference tournament semis. Congrats in order to Florida State, who took out UNC late. Their basketball program is now truly on the national map with their best ever wins and results as an ACC school. Nice to take the football program’s troubles off the front page for a change (other FSU teams were also involved). As for UNC, I hope for their sake that Ty Lawson’s healthy come next weekend. On paper, that team should probably win the national title, but if he can’t go, I could see them losing before the Elite Eight. Mississippi State might have played their way in by beating LSU, regardless of whether or not they claim the SEC title in the final against Tennessee. Their coach was modest about the team’s case after the game, but the stats pretty much read like those of an NCAA tournament participant. USC stole a bid in the Pac-10, at least two teams are going to be delighted come Sunday night that Duquesne and Baylor lost their chances at conference auto bids.
On another note, congratulations to Martin Brodeur. He tied Patrick Roy’s all-time win record in his native Montreal. It just so happens that Roy himself starred there for a number of years. And fittingly, Brodeur could break the record on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day. Even as a Ranger fan, I’ll never begrudge the guy his success because he performs at a high-level every night, plays an absurd number of games each season (aside from this one because of an injury), and he seems like a good person too. Both he and Roy made some classy comments in their post-game media sessions. Also, very good job by the fans in Montreal to salute him afterward, even though he obviously played a key role in beating the Canadiens and putting them at risk of dropping out of the playoffs.
Anyway, I guess Henrik Lundqvist now has something to shoot for! After all, records this big require pretty good teams (plus longevity), so the closer he comes to whatever mark Brodeur finishes with, the better the Rangers will have likely done over the next ten years or so (yes, I am going to assume that Henrik will play most, if not all, of his NHL career on Broadway).
Lastly, a shout-out to Jeff, Dan, and several other friends from Colgate that I ran into yesterday in Manhattan.