Questions we want answered in the championship game
Connecticut’s trying to become the first team to win the Big East tournament by winning five games in five days. While the Huskies’ legs may give out down the stretch, their intensity surely will not.
Here are a couple questions we want answered tonight at the Garden:
Championship game: Connecticut vs. Louisville, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Can the Connecticut guards deal with pressure defense?
UConn has seen it all in five games at the Garden – man-to-man, 2-3 zone, box-and-1. Now it will see intense backcourt pressure from Rick Pitino’s guards. It should limit UConn’s brilliant break-away game in transition and could stifle the Huskies from downtown. After all, Louisville’s second-ranked 3-point defense in the Big East held long-range artists Notre Dame to 33 percent shooting from beyond the arc. The Huskies made just 4 of 17 perimeter shots against Syracuse Friday night.
Can Preston Knowles finally play well against UConn?
UConn coach Jim Calhoun called Kemba Walker the most valuable player in America. It’s hard to argue considering the Bronx-native is only six points away from breaking the all-time Big East tournament scoring record. Knowles, though, will have to bring it in every game this month for the Cardinals to keep winning.
“There’s no let-up in us,” said Knowles, who leads the Cardinals with 14.7 points per game. “We just keep getting better and better and now we have a chance to do something really special.”
Knowles has been special for a Louisville team that has all the energy of Cardinals’ teams past but much more balance, as four players scored in double figures Friday vs. Notre Dame. They swept both games with UConn this season, but Knowles was far from his best and is averaging just 8.8 points in his career vs. the Huskies.
“We need him at his best when we’re playing the best,” coach Rick Pitino said. “No question about that.”
Line: Louisville -3
Sheen meter: “Pure and complete gnarly-isms.” That’s what both these teams have provided for the Garden faithful this week. Walker’s been cold-blooded when the temperature’s turned up and Knowles has been a straight-up playmaker on both ends of the floor.
Prediction: UConn dominates the offensive glass, where it ranks second in conference. Walker will nail another shot on the Huskies’ last possession, only this time the game will be decided well before that.
UConn 73, Louisville 65