The Big East final at Madison Square Garden as a special thing to cover. The passion of the players, fans, coaches, everybody.
— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) March 14, 2013
The "Big Eazy," also known as the "Beast," or simply the Big East Conference, is one of my favorite tournaments to watch. The conference is full of ranked and sleeper teams, including NBA prospects and at a stage that gets no bigger than playing at Madison Square Garden. The New York Knicks, are on a four game road trip out west, racking up losses. So who is going to be filling the seats at the Mecca? Fans of college basketball, fans of the big east, fans of the most exciting conference tournament in college basketball Welcome to the "Big Eazy!"
The Big East Tournament started on Tuesday and goes through Saturday. The teams that played first are the weaker teams of the conference. Seton Hall defeated South Florida and Rutgers defeated DePaul. Now on to round two, where things get pretty interesting. The game I believed that could of went either way were between, Villanova and St. John's. These are teams that really didn't get noticed at all, simply because their conference is loaded. There are six, ranked teams in the Big East. Villanova is 20-12 overall and 11-8 in their conference, after beating St. John's on wednesday, 66-53; they are ranked seventh in conference play. The Red Storm, on the other hand ,have lost five in a row. They are 16-15 overall and only 8-11 in the Big East. They took number 15th ranked Marquette to the edge after a 69-67 loss in last Saturday's game. I figured that might have been enough motivation to make a deep run in the Conference Tournament. That didn't happen. They're done!
I still think Villanova is on the bubble, although, they do have some upsets on their resume. They've beaten Syracuse, Louisville, and Georgetown at home. They play better at home, yes, but in this tourney, Madison Square Garden is everyone's home. Now a win over Louisville, again, should secure a spot.
Another good match-up I look forward to is, Syracuse and Pittsburgh in round three. The last time these teams played, unranked Pittsburgh won by 10 in early February, while the Orangemen were ranked 6th overall. This time, Pitt is ranked 17th and Syracuse is ranked 19th. Syracuse started the first half of the season strong, but has dropped in the 2nd half, losing four out of their last six games, but somehow still find themselves ranked. (this UNC Tar Heel fan is furious about this!). You never know with a team like the Orangemen. They played their last game in the Carrier Dome, their home-streak of 38 was snapped and they retired former Syracuse player Carmelo Anthony's jersey, all in the same-day. Where is the emotion? Where is the effort? Show something for your last Big East run! Because after this season, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Norte Dame are all heading to the Atlantic Coast Conference, where the conference tournament is held in Greensboro, N.C.
"I was thinking about all the times coming here," said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim after his 48th Big East tournament win, 13 more than the second-place coach. "I first came to the Garden when I was a sophomore in college, the old, old Garden. Seems like about 50 years ago. Oh, it was 50 years ago.
"I was thinking in the locker room before the game, about some of the games, and some of the highlights. Things have kind of been two years coming, but now that it's here, your whole life has been spent in this league, and the last 31 years coming to this building, that's a lot. That's a lot of memories, a lot of time."
The Panthers, however, have been gaining momentum: they've won their last four games and have a great record at the Garden, winning 30 out of 45 games there over 13 years and have won two out of three there this season. They have found new life at the right time. They've only lost four times out of the last 15 games, all against Big East teams. They're winning the old-fashioned way; by feeding each other the rock. They rank 8th in assists with almost 17 a game. Their leading scorer, Tray Woodall, averages only 12 points per game; he's their point guard, people! Repeat: a point guard is the leading scorer on the team. That's amazing! This is college, not the pros. I'm kind of curious to see how far this team will go in the big tournament. They look dangerous finishing their big east record at 12-6. This game is definitely going to be worth watching. The winner plays Cincinatti, or Georgetown in the semi-finals. That game is going to be good as well.
The whole Big Easat Tournament is a joy to watch and very interesting once the 2nd round gets uderway. I like underdogs, so i'm going to go with Villanova winning the Tournament. They have something to prove, plus they have already beaten Louisville and Georgetown. I like them, but getting past Louisville would be the toughest task at hand. The Cardinals still remember that loss and they have won seven in a row entering Thursday's match-up, two against ranked teams. They are led by guard Peyton Siva, who averages close to 10 points and six dimes per game (a point guard, people!). Wow, what a conference! This is the Big Eazy! This is the Beast! R.I.P.
More on the NCAA, here.