Thanks to a friendly war of words between Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino at Big East media day on Wednesday, the two meetings between league contenders Syracuse and Louisville this season promise to be especially entertaining.
Asked about Louisville coach Rick Pitino's assertion that the Big East adding Memphis and Temple "will more than make up for" the impending departure of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, a smiling Boeheim told ZagsBlog.com, "Rick's full of s--- if that's what he really said." Boeheim then went on to express mild annoyance at Pitino's frequent statements that Syracuse would be better off in the Big East than the ACC, noting that Louisville likely would have left for the Big 12 had it received an invitation.
"The only thing I'll say about what Rick said all summer is that if Louisville could have left they would have left," Boeheim said. "Everybody knows it and I'm really tired of him saying what Syracuse should be or should have done because they would have left in a heartbeat. Everybody knows it.
"I don't mind him denying that fact, but when they start talking about Syracuse, I'm going to start talking about them."
Asked for his response to Boeheim's comments by Zagsblog.com, a smiling Pitino joked, "I think he's full of s***, and so we're both full of it." Pitino acknowledged Syracuse may have the stronger brand than either Temple or Memphis but suggested that from a competitive standpoint, the difference wasn't all that significant.
"Anybody who looks at where Memphis has been in the last 10-12 years, anybody who looks at the tradition of Temple and knows Franny Dunphy, would know I'm not full of s***," Pitino said.
"If Temple played Syracuse 10 times right now, one's gonna win six and the other's gonna win four. Syracuse and Pitt are two great teams."
While Pitino was correct in his original points months ago that Memphis and Temple were the Big East's best possible options to replace its departed members, I think I'd side with Boeheim on this debate.
Syracuse is a top 10 program nationally and owner of a national title in the past decade. Pittsburgh had been the most consistent program in the Big East under Jamie Dixon until last year's rare down season. Those aren't track records even a quality program like Temple can match at this point, though Memphis is certainly closer to an even trade.
The one point where Boeheim may be wrong, though, is when he suggests Pitino would prefer to be in the Big 12. Perhaps Louisville as an institution would want that to protect its football program, but because of Pitino's Northeast roots and New York-area recruiting success, he likely is genuine when he says he prefers the Big East for his program.