Louisville vs. Notre Dame: 5-OT Thriller Illustrates High Quality of Big East

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 10, 2013

Feb 9, 2013; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Jack Cooley (45) reacts after fouling out in the second half against the Louisville Cardinals at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

If anybody might have questioned the quality of play in the Big East Conference, the Louisville Cardinals and Notre Dame Fighting Irish put on one for the ages Saturday night.

It was the longest regular-season game in the history of the Big East. The two teams played into five overtimes, with the Fighting Irish prevailing, 104-101. It's a testament to the defensive caliber of both teams as they only combined for a little over 200 points in over an hour of basketball.

No matter what you thought of the game itself, the drama couldn't be matched. This season has been full of big upsets and last-second shots, but nothing has been able to equal the kind of suspense and entertainment created by Notre Dame-Louisville. It had absolutely everything you could have possibly asked for.

There were so many times that Louisville looked to have put the game away, with Notre Dame, instead, finding some way to extend the game into overtime and then another overtime and then another overtime. You get the picture

As the announcers brought up during the game, Saturday night's action hearkened back to the Syracuse Orange and Connecticut Huskies' game in the 2009 Big East tournament that went to six overtimes, which is the longest game in Big East history. That game was an absolute marathon that kept fans glued to the television for every second of regulation and six subsequent overtimes.

The game just reminded fans of why the Big East remains one of the preeminent basketball conferences in the country. The Big Ten has usurped the Big East as premier basketball conference this year.

While that is true and the Big East might lack a couple of top-end teams, it remains absolutely loaded. Seven teams came into the week ranked in the Top 25. Fans can't always be guaranteed that a game will go into five overtimes, but they know they'll get a great game from start to finish, seemingly no matter who the opponents are.

It's a shame how football is dominating the collegiate landscape. That's one of the biggest reasons the Big East has been carved apart. With the Catholic schools leaving the conference, fans won't be treated to the same epic rivalries that made the Big East what it is today (Mark Blaudschun and Dan Wolken of USA Today), and that's unfortunate.

Basketball fans won't be treated to games like this too much more. Most of the best basketball schools will be out by 2013 or 2014, and the Big East will almost be relegated to an also-ran when it comes to anything but football.

Until that day comes, though, the Big East remains one of the top conferences in the country to watch great basketball.