March Madness is a time of year that brings great joy to college basketball fans worldwide every year. With the NCAA Tournament upon us, there is no conference tournament that prepares you as a fan for the Big Tourney more than the Big East Tournament. And, after the run made by the University of Connecticut Huskies last year, who won five straight games in five days to win the Big East Tournament last year, then went on to win the NCAA Tournament, it prepares teams very well for the Big Tourney as well.
The Big East Tournament opened with four games on Tuesday, March 6, 2012, with #9 Connecticut defeating #16 DePaul 81-67. The second game of the day session saw #13 Pittsburgh top #12 St. John’s, which could have easily been the last conference game for Big East Freshman of the Year Moe Harkless, who scored 25 points. In the first game of the evening session, #10 Seton Hall thrashed #15 Providence 79-47, and in the finale of the night, #14 Villanova vanished Rutgers, 70-49.
In the second day of action, the first game saw a thriller between #9 UConn and #8 West Virginia go into overtime, with the Huskies pulling it out 71-67, led by Shabazz Napier’s 26 points and 22 by Jeremy Lamb. The second afternoon game saw #5 Georgetown overpower #13 Pitt 64-52. In the evening session, #7 Louisville ended the NCAA Tournament hopes of the Seton Hall Pirates with a 61-55 win, and in the final game of the evening, #8 USF topped Villanova, 56-47.
On Thursday, the Big Boys of the Big East played after double-byes, and the day began with a close one that saw #1 Syracuse edge #9 UConn 58-55. The second game was even better, as #4 Cincinnati and Georgetown needed two overtimes to decide the winner, with Cincinnati squeezing by with a two-point win, 72-70. In the evening session, #7 Louisville shocked #2 Marquette 84-71, and the final game of three straight days of quadruple headers saw Notre Dame slip pass USF, 57-53.
In the semifinals on Friday, Cincinnati pulled off a huge upset, handing the Syracuse Orangemen only their second loss of the season, with a 71-68 win. Louisville advanced to the finals with a 64-50 win over Notre Dame, and the Saturday night final was set. The championship game was a defensive affair, with both teams squaring off, but the sluggers from Louisville came out on top with a 50-44 win. Louisville point guard Peyton Siva won the tournament MVP, averaging 13.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists in leading the team to the championship with his family watching.
Winning the Big East Tournament helped Louisville tremendously, as they earned a #4 seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament. Despite a semifinal loss, Syracuse earned the #1 seed in the East Region, and the Big East landed nine teams in the NCAA Tournament. USF was one of the last teams to make the Big Dance, snagging a #12 seed, and will play in what is now called the first round of the NCAA Tournament Wednesday at 9:30pm. Seton Hall just missed out on making the tournament, very disappointing for seniors Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope, and they will attempt to take out their frustration on the NIT field beginning Tuesday night. Will Louisville be able to capture the same magic during the NCAA Tournament that UConn had last year on their way to winning it all? Only time will tell. But one thing is for sure; after 30 years at Madison Square Garden, the Big East Tournament doesn’t disappoint!