Likely the most anticipated game of the day kicks this thing off, as Syracuse and Villanova do battle in a virtual NIT lose-in game.
As for predictions, I'm far from the biggest Scottie Reynolds fan in the world, but I think he has a monster game...and Syracuse still wins a tight one. Also: turnovers, lots and lots of turnovers.
More over/under betting choices:
Number of times the word "bubble" is used: 21
Combined number of amazing/amazingly bad plays by Jonny Flynn: 9
Total number of shots from behind the NBA three-point line: 8
Let's do it.
12:01- No opening song/montage to be tired of by 2:30 this year? All we get is some guy who looks creepily like Mos Def walking around and talking over highlights of Big East teams. A disappointment to say the least.
12:04- Jim Burr and Curtis Shaw doing their 977th game of the year. Syracuse will somehow manage to commit 35 fouls out of a 2-3 zone.
12:05- We're off to a combined 0-for-7 start after two minutes, two of those misses by Reynolds.
12:07- First hilarious exchange of the tournament:
Bilas: "And that's just an outstanding catch and finish by Dante Cunningham."
McDonough: "And the first outstanding telestration arrow from Bill Raftery."
Raftery: "You're tough on my arrows!"
Bilas: "Aren't that many in the quill these days."
God I love this.
12:10- Paul Harris hits a rare trey, and it's 8-5 'Cuse at the under 16 timeout.
12:15- Rut-roh. Donte' Greene strokes back-to-back threes and all of the sudden it's 15-7 Orange. I would love to watch this kid go off for 30.
12:18- Casiem Drummond breaks Derrick Caracter's record for fastest two fouls in a game this season, and it's still 15-7 as we head to the second TV timeout.
12:21- Greene from just inside the NBA line. Oh boy.
12:22- McDonough has already disagreed with two Jim Burr calls. I have disagreed with three, as well as the initial call to let Jim Burr officiate a Big East Tournament game.
12:25- I just realized who Paul Harris reminds me of: Donut, the car-jacking eighth-grader from Season Four of The Wire.
12:27- Jonny Flynn trying to do too much, and Scottie Reynolds shooting threes from behind the wrong line. It's everything we thought it could be. Syracuse up 20-13 with 7:45 to play in the opening half.
12:31- No one in the Big East sells the foul around the basket better than Harris. He loses the ball on a put-back and then has what appears to be a small seizure in order to draw the whistle.
Greene hits a runner for his 10th and 11th points, and it's 24-17 Syracuse.
12:36- Burr calls a walk that didn't happen and then struts down the floor. He sucks.
12:37- Margin has stayed right around a touchdown since the opening five minutes. Syracuse up 26-18 at the under four.
12:39- Bahahaha. The announcers aren't aware that they're back on the air, and we're able to overhear this exchange:
McDonough: "Is that the Friar?"
Raftery: "Yeah, the Friar's the ugly one."
All of this said with soft, dead serious voices.
12:43- Villanova's M.O. against the Syracuse zone seems to be to just hold the ball up top for about 25 seconds, try to drive, and then throw up something crazy or kick it out for a contested shot to beat the buzzer. 28-19 Orange after a Flynn deuce.
12:45- Bilas continuing to rip on Kentucky for not deserving to be in the dance. Keep it up friend.
12:47- Here we go. Stokes drills an NBA three and Clark gets a breakaway dunk, and all of the sudden it's 28-24.
12:48- Reynolds loses the ball with about seven seconds left, gets it back, and then finds Dwayne Anderson wide open in the corner for a buzzer-beating three. It's 28-27 Syracuse at the break, and now Doug Gottlieb is here to remind us how much we loathe that annoying, loud, spiky-haired guy at the bar for the next 15 minutes.
12:51- Update from the only other meaningful game being played right now: Dayton leads St. Louis 34-25 at halftime of the 8/9 game in the A-10 tourney.
12:54- Mini-halftime stats:
Syracuse (28): Greene 11, Harris 10, Flynn 4, Onuaku 2, Ongeanet 1.
Villanova (27): Reynolds 7, Clark 6, Anderson 5, Cunningham 5, Stokes 4.
12:57- We get it Gottlieb, there aren't any good teams in the Big East. None.
1:05- If you haven't been able to watch any of this game, just know that you're going to be asked whether or not "you want reality TV" at least 94 times between now and Saturday night.
1:07- Villanova snatches the lead for the first time since it was 2-0, but it's short lived as my man Kristof follws up a Flynn miss to make it 30-29 'Cuse.
1:08- The start to the second half has been the complete opposite of the start to the first. Anderson and Flynn hit dueling threes and it's 35-32 Syracuse.
1:10- I think the guy who plays Thanksgiving in the Guiness St. Patrick's Day commercials may end up being the best actor of this generation. I haven't seen a line delivered better than his "wow, you have got some brass, son" in the last 15 years.
1:13- Corey Stokes is an absolute shooter. He sticks a trey and the lead is down to two, with Shane Clark heading to the line to try and tie it.
1:15- Arinze Onuaku - who scares me from 750 miles away - slams Syracuse up three as we head to the under 16 media timeout.
1:18- Reynolds ties it back up at 39 with 15 minutes to play.
1:20- Note to Louisville players not reading this: you don't get an extra point for shooting from behind the back line. Go ahead and scoot up. Please.
1:21- Shane Clark with a one-handed follow-up slam to make it 41-39 Cats. Defense is apparently optional during this stretch for Syracuse.
1:23- Stokes hits one from just inside midcourt to put 'Nova up three. Reynolds, Anderson and Stokes now all have ten points. It's 44-41 VU at the under 12.
1:25- Updates from games around the country that you may or may not have a mild interest in:
--Dayton 41, St. Louis 30
--Ball State 30, Eastern Michigan 26
--East Carolina 15, Tulsa 12
1:28- Scoop Jardine is simply a fun name to say. Many a linguist has confirmed it.
1:30- Syracuse is the worst team in the country at defending out-of-bounds plays. They've been burnt for easy buckets three times now. Dwayne Anderson is officially playing out of his mind. He's got a chance to complete a three-point play and make it 49-42 Villanova after a Boeheim timeout.
1:31- Announcing crew is ripping the Big East for putting ten guys on their All-Conference teams. I love these guys.
1:32- Stokes is unconscious. Seriously, everyone is trying to get his attention and he's not responding. 'Nova up ten and Syracuse's season is in serious jeopardy.
1:34- Greene hits a big three, but an Onuaku swinging elbow allows Anderson to hit a second-chance three and put the Cats back up by ten.
1:35- Reynolds hits yet another 'Nova three and it's 58-47 with 7:22 to go. Syracuse is going to have to repeat its miraculous comeback against Pitt to pull this one off.
What's that? Oh, OK. Syracuse is going have to repeat, um, Pitt's miraculous comeback against them in order to pull this one off.
1:38- Scottie buries another one and almost amazingly it's 61-47 Villanova. It's going to take a Morrisonian collapse for them not to get a second shot at Georgetown.
1:41- Least Valuable Play of the Day: The Onuaku swinging elbow after a rare 'Nova miss.
Please don't murder me.
1:42- Raftery has now used both "Reynolds Wrap" and "Clark Bar," which McDonough quickly called "equally egregious."
These guys balance each other out so well, it's really awesome. If I saw them out together at a bar, I'd make the biggest ass out of myself.
63-47 Jay Wrights with 5:21 left.
1:45- Syracuse cannot hit anything, and we're flirting with a blowout here. Onuaku fouls out and starts thinking about who he's going to kill tonight. As long as he stays north of the Ohio, I think I'm OK.
1:47- 69-50 Villanova at the under four. A disappointing end to a very entertaining first 28 minutes.
1:48- McDonough: "Supposedly, they don't factor in how many teams are in from each conference, but, sometimes you wonder."
These are exactly the types of things that I would say if I were in his position. We should hang out.
1:51- The announcers are now talking about how ridiculous it is that some people think a team benefits from losing early in its conference tournament. I have never been in more agreement with an announcing crew for two hours than I have been this afternoon.
Villanova 73, Syracuse 57 with 2:50 to play.
1:57- Corey Stokes sets a new career-high with 18, and it's 80-61 Shmova with 1:23 left. Jay Wright is now emptying his bench. I did not see this coming.
2:00- The Wildcats are your noon champions for the second year in a row: Villanova 82, Syracuse 63.
2:01- Back in five.