It’s finally March, the time of year all of us college basketball fans have been long awaiting. Now don’t get me wrong; I am very excited to see how everything pans out in the NCAA tournament starting on March 13, but March 6 marks the beginning of my favorite tournament. That’s right – it’s the Big East tournament, the showdown at Madison Square Garden, the most historic basketball arena in the history of the game.
Each conference in the NCAA has its own respective tournament in which the winner secures a bid in the big dance. However, the Big East tournament sets itself apart from all the others year in and year out with its mystique and unbelievable drama.
Some people say it’s because it’s played at MSG, the ‘Mecca’ of the sport of basketball. Every legend you can possibly think of has played in that building. From Jordan to James, if you’ve ever picked up a basketball, you’ve probably dreamed about playing there or just getting on the MTA train to Penn Station-34th Street and catching a game.
Others say this tournament is as illustrious as it is because of the level of basketball the Big East conference is known for. Each season, it is arguably the strongest conference in Division One college basketball as far as competition goes.
Every team from 1-16 usually has a shot; there is no real easy win in this group.
Some may argue that the Big East tournament is so competitive that whoever wins it is too bruised and battered to make it through the long grueling NCAA tournament after playing up to five straight nights for their conference championship. However, who can ever forget last year’s amazing run by the Connecticut Huskies that proved all those doubters to be sadly mistaken? Jim Calhoun coached Kemba Walker and the rest of the Connecticut basketball team to about a month long streak without losing a game. Walker won the Bob Cousy Award for being the Most Valuable Player of the Big East Tournament after an amazing performance and went on to win the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player as well after leading his team to a remarkable run to the top of college basketball.
Nevertheless, as always, there are many differences this year. With Kemba Walker out of the equation (currently playing in the NBA for the worst team in the league) and U. Conn having a down year (not even in the AP’s top 25 ranking), it is looking as if we will be crowning a new champion this year. Syracuse is the new powerhouse and sits at the top of the Big East standings going into the tournament and is currently ranked second in the nation. In my opinion, they are going to be a very tough matchup for any team, especially being that the Big East tournament is played in their home state. There is a good chance we will see a repeat of 2006 when Gerry McNamara exploded and lead ‘Cuse to a conference championship, forever solidifying himself in college basketball history and making himself a hero in many families’ hearts around the country.
Every year during the second week of March, millions tune in to ESPN for about a 5-day span and by Sunday everyone is wishing they could relive it, telling the people who didn’t watch about all the high pressure, drama filled moments they missed. No one ever leaves their television set unsatisfied if they are a true basketball fan but there are no promises that your heart will not be broken if your favorite team is in it. I’m sure Sportscenter’s top 10 plays of the week will be mostly made up by last second heroics from the tournament when it is all said and done. I guess the only question left now is will you be tuned in and a part of this year’s thrilling run to the championship?