Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Siva’s Shot Caps 4-0 Day for ‘Big Country’ Conference
LOUISVILLE — Peyton Siva’s driving layup with 1.4 seconds remaining in overtime gave No. 6 Louisville a 62-60 win over No. 20 Vanderbilt.
But it also helped the Big East — or as Louisville coach Rick Pitino calls it, “The Big Country” — go a perfect 4-0 Friday in the Big East/SEC Challenge.
“I mean right now, the Big East, we could potentially take San Diego State into the Big East, so we’re going to call it the ‘Big Country,'” Pitino said. “It’s no longer the Big East, it’s the ‘Big Country Conference,’ seriously.
“Or the ‘Big Universe.'”
In Siva’s Universe, the huge shot he scored off a nice screen by Gorgui Dieng, was the kind every basketball player dreams of making as a kid.
“It makes me feel good because everybody’s been doubting the Big East,” an excited Siva said at his locker after putting up 14 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists in the win. “We gotta represent for the Big East. We’re trying to be the powerhouse before everybody leaves.”
No. 4 Syracuse, which is leaving for the ACC, won at home against No. 10 Florida, 72-68.
Cincinnati won at Georgia, 57-51.
And Seton Hall crushed Auburn at home, 81-59.
“Seton Hall is my team,” said Cardinals guard Chris Smith, a New Jersey native who tallied just 5 points in the win. “I actually signed a Letter of Intent to there with Bobby Gonzalez, but at the same time I’m Louisville first all day.”
(And no, I didn’t ask Smith for his best Gonzo story. My bad.)
The Big East is now up 6-2 this year, but Big East fans shouldn’t get too carried away just yet.
There are still four games to go Saturday, with Arkansas at UConn, Pittsburgh at Tennessee, LSU at Rutgers and West Virginia at Mississippi State.
Those games figure to be overshadowed by the big Carolina-Kentucky shindig in Lexington, but an SEC sweep — although unlikely, especially given that UConn is at home — would tie this thing up at 6-all.
The old series was tied at 8-8, so if the Big East wins at least one game Saturday, they can claim supremacy in the overall series at least until next year.
“I don’t think it really matters too much,” Pitino said. “I don’t think it’s any telling sign that we’re better than the SEC.”
Still, Pitino, a native New Yorker, has been outspoken all fall about the departures of Syracuse and Pitt, and the potential departure of UConn, which he told SNY.tv was “the dumbest thing he’s ever heard of.”
“For me, growing up in New York, I can’t envision Syracuse not being in the Big East,” Pitino said. “Same way, Boston College and all the other teams. To me, it doesn’t make sense. But I understand what football means to the country today.”
Football is driving the realignment of college sports — and Pitino continues to take comical shots at the ACC for stealing Syracuse and Pitt.
“They were so brilliant, the ACC,” Pitino said, “because they said, ‘Look, we know we’re not going to be the SEC in football. Let’s be No. 1 in basketball again. Let’s rob the Big East of two of their best traditions. So they were brilliant in doing it.
“So now we’ve gotta be equally brilliant and we’ll still have a great conference.”
With one more day in the Challenge, the Big East still has a lot it can prove.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.