Top 10 Big East Tournament Moments
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The Big East Tournament began on Tuesday afternoon. Its setting at Madison Square Garden makes it feel as if it’s being played on a grand stage and gives it meaning when it’s nothing more than a precursor to the Big Dance for many clubs.
We examine the Top 10 moments in the tourney’s history, which dates back to 1980. The event was moved to MSG in 1983 and, thanks to the conference realignment on the horizon, may soon get an eviction notice from the Garden.
10. Eric Devendorf's Three That Never Was (2009)
A deflected pass at the end of regulation landed in the hands of Syracuse’s Devendorf, whose desperate toss at the horn was what he thought to be a game-winning 3-pointer that would have saved the teams from playing six overtimes. Devendorf immediately hopped on the press table and celebrated.
Instead, a review nullified the shot - and retrieved Devendorf from his perch - and set the stage for one of the greatest games in college basketball history. Six extra periods later, the Orange survived with a 127-117 victory that lasted into the wee hours of the morning.
9. 'Nova Makes Like Chris Webber (1981)
We’re sorry, C-Webb, but calling a timeout you don’t have always will be called a Webber. Ironically, the Wildcats made the blunder more than a decade before Webber did so in the 1993 national title game.
In the Big East Tournament’s championship game in ‘81, Villanova allowed Syracuse’s Leo Rautins (pictured) - yes, Andy’s father - to tip in a miss and give the Orange a one-point lead in the waning seconds. The Wildcats followed by taking a timeout they didn’t have, earning a technical and sending them to an 83-80 setback. Ouch.
8. Kemba Walker’s Buzzer-Beater (2011)
The importance of Walker’s buzzer-beating jumper was two-fold. First, it was a signature moment in the 2011 national championship season for the Huskies, who first won an unprecedented five games in five days to sweep through the gauntlet that is the Big East Tournament.
But it was also was a play that provided an ever-lasting visual: The diminutive Walker being guarded on a switch by 6-foot-11 Gary McGhee. A vicious step-back move and subsequent jumper sent McGhee to the floor and UConn to the tournament’s semifinals in one fell swoop.
7. Da'Sean Butler’s Bank (2010)
Most people will remember the Mountaineers’ 2010 season for their Final Four appearance, but they earned a nail-biting Big East Tournament title with three straight wins by three points or less.
The first came in remarkable fashion in the quarterfinals against Cincinnati, which had possession in the final seconds with a chance to break a tie. But Dion Dixon lost the ball out of bounds with 3.1 ticks left - allowing Butler one final shot. He banked in the winning, straight-on three from nearly NBA range as coach Bob Huggins got over on his former school.
6. Ryan Blackwell's Answer (1998)
Ron Artest’s 3-pointer tied the 1998 semifinal between Syracuse and St. John’s, 67-67, with 17 seconds left. Without taking a timeout, coach Jim Boeheim put the team’s fate in the hands of his players. Senior guard Todd Burgan almost betrayed that trust, falling down as he penetrated just inside the arc but still finding Blackwell on the left wing.
He took one dribble and slid to his right before draining the winning jumper as the horn sounded and the Orange players erupted in celebration. The shot put ‘Cuse into the tourney’s title game, which it would lose to Connecticut. But still, it was an all-time clutch moment.
5. Taliek Brown’s 35-footer (2002)
Connecticut and Pittsburgh have had many hard-fought battles at Madison Square Garden over the years, but none included a more surprising moment than in the 2002 Big East Tournament Championship Game. Point guard Taliek Brown, chided by the Huskies’ fanbase for a broken jumpshot, nailed a 35-foot 3-pointer to beat the shot clock in the final seconds of a second overtime. The shot salted away UConn’s fifth Big East title and overshadowed the heroics of future NBA standout Caron Butler.
4. Oliver Taylor vs. Villanova (1991)
Could it happen two nights in a row? Taylor showed it could. He lifted Seton Hall to a victory over Pittsburgh with a driving layup in the quarterfinal, then in even more dramatic fashion during a semifinal victory over Villanova with just 1.7 ticks remaining on the clock. The Pirates went on to win the tournament and then earned a berth in the Elite Eight later that March.
3. Gerry McNamara’s Running Three (2006)
McNamara - now an assistant coach for the Orange - owned the ‘06 Big East Tournament, which Syracuse won with four wins in four days. The first win came against Cincinnati, which led by two points with 6.2 seconds left.
Enter McNamara, who shook free near mid-court with a behind-the-back dribble and hit a running 3-pointer with three-tenths of a second left en route to a 74-73 victory over the Bearcats. Considering the circumstance, it’s the greatest shot in Big East Tournament history. The next-day, McNamara also hit a crucial 3-pointer in an upset of top-ranked Connecticut. McNamara overrated? Jim Boeheim didn’t want to hear it.
2. Walter Berry Swats Pearl Washington (1986)
Berry’s block of Washington saw a clash of two of the Big East’s legendary players as two of its top programs faced off in the tournament’s championship game. A New York City native playing in his hometown, Washington was known for his ability to shake defenders on the way to the basket.
Well, Pearl thought he had a clear path to the rim until the lanky Berry - the Big East and national player of the year in ‘86 - swatted Washington’s shot to preserve a 70-69 victory for the Johnnies in the final seconds. The schools combined for 57 wins that season - and one indelible moment.
1. Allen vs. Allen (1996)
Two future Hall of Famers trading blows at Madison Square Garden and coming down to the last shot? Yes, please.
Neither player shot well that day but the game was an instant classic as the Huskies went on a 12-0 run to finish the game, capped by a ridiculous shot by Allen after he left his feet too early. After a miss by Iverson and another misfire from point-blank range by Jerome Williams, the Huskies were Big East champs.