While the Midwest is most certainly more concerned with the Big Ten Tournament because of its relevance to IU and its convenient geographic location, it, nor any other conference tournament can even lay a finger on the Big East Tournament.
Each year this spectacle takes place in the â€œWorlds Most Famous Arenaâ€, Madison Square Garden and it brings together 16 teams and their fans that, quite frankly donâ€™t like each other all that much.Â It spans 5 days and is filled with 15 games, and in any given tournament, you can see at least three of four matchups that would not surprise many if it were for the national championship.
This seasonâ€™s Big East Tournament was no different than the past few seasons since expanding the event to include all 16 teams.Â Only five of the 15 games were decided prior to the final buzzer actually sounded. The other 10 were either buzzer beaters, overtime, or simply down to the last possession or two.Â That is an astounding number of close, hard-fought games.Â No one wants to loose, and it shows, as every single team leaves it all out on the floor in every game, even if they are overmatched.
The one big difference from other years in this tournament was how it was won.Â The University of Connecticut made a seemingly improbable five games in five days run and beat everyone in their path.Â Their All American Guard, Kemba Walker, is the very rare player who, when determined, can throw just about any group of guys on his back and make a serious run.
Kemba displayed exactly why he is a candidate for national player of the year.Â Their first two games werenâ€™t even close, after routing DePaul and Georgetown, oh by the way; Kemba only scored 28 and 24 respectively.
The next two werenâ€™t quite as easy.Â On Thursday, Walker had one of the best crossovers in recent memory, causing Pittâ€™s Gary McGee to crumble to the ground.Â Following said crossover, Kemba buried a jumper to beat a top five team in the Panthers.
Friday was just your run of the mill fourth game in four days for UConn.Â Since they were matched up with Syracuse, it was obvious that the game had to go to overtime, as the last time the two teams met in the Big East Tournament in 2009, we witnessed the legendary six overtime game.Â Kemba had his best game of the tournament finishing with 33 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, and six steals, while leading the Huskies to five point overtime win over the Orange.
Saturday night featured two of the biggest surprises of the season in the title game, when the Huskies met Louisville for the third time of the season.Â Louisville won the first two meetings of the season, so many logical thinkers would have to reach the conclusion that the cardinals would finally have what it took to knock off the pesky Huskies and Kemba.Â Louisvilleâ€™s fast pace and full court pressure defense would clearly wear on the legs of the Huskies.Â That simply wasnâ€™t the case.Â UConn was in control for the majority of the game, only relinquishing its grasp on the lead briefly in the last few minutes.
As improbable as it may have seemed, five wins in five days finally happened.Â If there has been a player in the Big East since the 16-team tournament began who could have pulled this feat off, it is certainly Kemba Walker.
For Five days of amazing basketball, the Garden was buzzing with fans sporting all sorts of different colors and logoâ€™s.Â Losing to them is unacceptable.Â The thought of having to sit in the Garden and wear a losing teams shirt is one that eats away at all Big East fans.Â The heckling for the fans of the loosing teams will not stop until there is a chance at redemption, which could be next week in the NCAA tournament, or for the unlucky oneâ€™s, next season.
While it is always bittersweet when the Big East Tournament (my second favorite sports spectacle next to the NCAA Tournament) is over, every fan of a team in the Big East is simply thankful that they do not have to play another conference foe in their next outing.Â The Gauntlet run is finally over.
Bob Knight may have said it best.Â â€œItâ€™s almost as hard, if not harder to win the Big East Tournament as it is to win the National Championship.â€
All Big East Tournament Team
- Kemba Walker- UConn (MVP)
- Preston Knowles- Louisville
- Scoop Jardine- Syracuse
- Ben Hansbrough- Notre Dame
- Peyton Siva- Louisville