The Big East Tournament. The best conference tournament in all of college basketball, at the Mecca, MSG. It doesn’t get much better than this. With the Conference in its tenth year in its “New” form, I thought we’d take a look back at all ten tournaments, and highlight “One Shining Moment” from each year. Of course, if you disagree with my pick and have something better (I for sure missed something) yell at me or just Road to the Garden as a whole on Twitter and let me know what I missed!
This wasn’t a particularly strong year in the Big East. Four teams made the NCAA Tournament, and not a single team got past the Round of 32. However, there was a chance it would only be three, before Providence went on a huge run, winning three games in three days, beating #5 St. John’s, #8 Seton Hall and #2 Creighton in the title game.
Bryce Cotton took home the Dave Gavitt trophy, after a dominant 23-point performance in the Championship Game.
After a near late-game collapse in their first-round game over St. John’s, Providence controlled just about every second of their next two games, but Creighton almost pulled a massive comeback, before forward LaDontae Henton sized up his man from the left wing, faced up and knocked down a deep mid-range jumper to put Providence up four. That’s the moment you have to look back on when Providence realized they were the first kings of the New Big East.
Villanova was a dominant champion this year. 16-2 in conference play, and they beat Xavier in the title game by 17 points. Josh Hart ended as the Dave Gavitt Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament, with Dylan Ennis and Darrun Hilliard being on the All-Tournament team.
There were some really close games in this tournament, with Xavier knocking off Butler in overtime, but there wasn’t a single point scored in the last 2:33 of regulation before Xavier just took over in overtime. Georgetown knocked off Creighton in a close one, but a layup with 2:08 left to take the lead doesn’t give this moment. Xavier also beat Georgetown by two in the following round, but Georgetown came back late to make that competitive.
Instead, the pick has to be Ryan Arcidiacono stepping up to the free-throw line in the Semifinal over Providence, in a tie game with three seconds left, and knocking down both free-throws. Now was it a foul? That’s for you to decide, but this was the moment I went with.
In the end, only Xavier advanced to the Sweet 16, despite six Big East teams making the Big Dance, and four winning in the first round.
Champion: Seton Hall
The soon-to-be National Champion Villanova Wildcats were no match for the magic of Isaiah Whitehead, as the Pirates knocked off the Wildcats 69-67 in the Championship game.
There were some magical moments from this run from the Pirates, but if I’m only able to choose one, it’s fairly easy. Down by two with 20 seconds left, Khadeen Carrington dribbles the ball across the timeline, as Isaiah Whitehead makes his move, coming off of an Angel Delgado screen. Villanova was forced to switch as Whitehead catches the ball a step in front of the Big East logo.
Whitehead turns, rips through and attacks the slower Ochefu going to his strong right hand. Whitehead has a step and gets to the lane as Kris Jenkins rotates over. Whitehead rises over Jenkins, powers through the contact and finishes the layup, tying the game for the Pirates. And-1! Jenkins was late to help and got hit with a blocking foul. Whitehead's ensuing free throw gives the Pirates the lead, and they would never look back, winning their first Big East title in 23 years.
The Big East sent five teams to the Big Dance, four won in the first round and Villanova went on to win the National title, based on some jump shot you may remember.
See, I don’t hate you Nova fans, I didn’t have to include this
Villanova was pretty good in this run, huh?
Ok, but here’s the thing with this tournament. I’m gonna cheat. I don’t want to just recognize the Champs, because that would be a lot of Villanova love, and this conference has ten teams. So instead, there are three moments here. I’ll throw up a poll on Twitter and allow the voices of the people to vote on the Winner of this tournament. Here are the nominees:
En route to an incredibly hot month of March, the Xavier Musketeers were in a battle with the #2-seeded Butler Bulldogs. After Kamar Baldwin made a free throw to tie the game, Xavier called a timeout. With Andrew Chrabacsnjaks guarding him, guard Trevon Bluiett catches the ball at the top of the key. He faces up, takes two dribbles to his right, stops, takes another dribble and knocks down a fadeaway jumper to put the Musketeers up for good.
In the next game for the Musketeers, Bluiett hits another huge jumper, this time a three which knots the game up at 72. Undeterred, Isaiah Zierden dribbles the ball up the floor and finds Marcus Foster. With 13 seconds left, Foster catches the ball, one-on-one with Bluiett, sizes him up and steps into an ice-cold three-point jumper to send the BlueJays to the Championship game.
Yeah, I had to include Villanova too. Down one, looking for redemption from last season’s devastating Big East Tournament loss, Hart dribbles the ball up the floor down one with 15 seconds left. Hart finds Jenkins for THREE… who misses. But Hart, darts to the offensive glass, with nobody being able to stop him. Hart catches the rebound, follows up the Jenkins miss and finishes through contact for an AND-1, giving the Wildcats the lead en route to their Big East title.
Who wins? You Decide!
Shoutout to Butler for making the Sweet 16, knocking off Winthrop and everyone’s darling Middle Tennessee, and Xavier for making an incredibly impressive Elite Eight run, beating Maryland (thanks again for that one), dismantling Florida State and then stunning Arizona on a Sean O’Mara bucket over Lauri Markkanen. Midwest Stand Up.
Ok, you’re getting a little selfish Villanova, let someone else have the Championship OK?
Ok, I genuinely thought about doing another poll. But, that would be BS. I can’t do it two years in a row. Instead, a shoutout to my tournament team MVP, the heart-attack-inducing Providence Friars. They played back-to-back-to-back overtime games in MSG. Is that the only time that has ever happened? Let alone the first time in the Big East Tournament, right? That’s how you earn the honorary All-Fan Big East Tournament MVP for producing the most watchable games. Amazing.
But, Villanova has won enough. They have. Plus, this team absolutely cruised to a National Title and is one of the greatest College teams we’ve ever seen, so they’ve gotten enough shine. This is probably the best team of this decade, so no they don’t win here too. You’ve gotten your praise, let someone else have the shine.
Since Providence gets my MVP, I’m giving this moment to someone else.
Khadeen Carrington just makes the free-throw to put Seton Hall up one, after an and-one bucket. The ball is inbounded, and with 32 points on the day, there’s only one man getting this shot. Kamar. Baldwin. Baldwin drives fullcourt to his weak side right hand, driving past a defending Michael Nzei for a layup, which misses. The rebound is on the weak side to none other than Tyler Wideman who finishes with a layup on the right side of the rim with 3.6 seconds left. A Myles Powell heave misses and the Butler Bulldogs have finally won their first Big East Tournament game.
AGAIN VILLANOVA? NOT COOL!
In good faith, I don’t think I can pick against Nova again. They just always won. But, before I do, a shoutout.
Myles Powell. I’m still convinced an NBA team could use him. The dude can flat-out score. He’s ice-cold. I don’t care, there are not 450 better basketball players in the world. There are not. There are not 450 better scorers, there might not be 100. But, I digress.
We got a Myles Powell vs Markus Howard showdown with the lights on, and unfortunately, Howard had an off-game (though somehow had 24 free throws), as Powell had 22 points and 7 assists en route to a close Pirates win. Xavier also had two very close battles, beating Creighton on a Zach Hankins tip-in, then losing to Villanova in overtime. Then in the title game, Villanova knocks off Seton Hall, despite a late run. But like what do I do, pick the Phil Booth three that put Villanova ahead for good at the 8:00 mark?
This was a fun year in the Big East, but it was clearly a rebuilding year. Only Villanova went on to win a tournament game. In the end though, Villanova had to get to overtime against Xavier and the “One Shining Moment” has to be Eric Paschall’s tip-in to send the Xavier game to overtime.
Champion: Heavily Disputed Between DePaul and St. John’s
There are two and we can move on after this year, and act like it never happened.
1. Pantelis Xidias: Does he shave his head? Did he have to?
2. This meme
“COACH THOMPSON! I KNOW YOU LOVE IT BIG FELLA! YA BOYS DID IT, YOUR BOY DID IT!”
Come on, that’s just amazing. The year the legendary Coach Thompson passes, this ragtag group pulls off a miracle run, headlined by a Big East Tournament Championship. Amazing, just amazing. It was storybook, it captured the nation's attention and is the only real win Georgetown fans have had over the last eight years.
Was it lucky? Sure. Collin Gillespie got hurt, it was a weaker Big East already, and Creighton knocked off UConn who absolutely had Georgetown’s number that year. But man, everything about it was perfect.
Then again, both Nova and Creighton made the Sweet 16 that year, so they had to have been pretty good.
Now, after Ewing inexplicably got another year after going 0-20 in conference play (if I had my way, he would’ve been gone after Year 3 and we don’t get this run, but that’s another conversation for another day), and another miserable year, the Hoyas are back in a familiar place. Rebuilding, and now finally looking for a new head coach. But for this month, heck these four days even, it was all optimism.
It’s hard to put it down to one moment. I’ve long said the game changed when McDermott tried to put in Jett Canfield and Dante Harris said “ain’t no way you tried to put this guy on me,” picked up full court and absolutely schooled him. The Hoyas had absolutely 0 energy before that, were down 13-6, and after that went on a 67-35 run.
But I can’t reflect that in a video of course, so the moment will be Jamorko Pickett dribbling over to the Georgetown bench and handing the ball off to Dante Harris. Harris, with Jeremiah Robinson-Earl guarding him, dribbles to his left, resets, crosses right, head fakes, crosses back to his left and draws the foul on the defending Robinson. The underrecruited/unranked freshman guard rattles the first free throw in with a lucky bounce, before swishing the second, giving the Hoyas the win against their toughest foe.
Dante Harris being the Tournaments Most Outstanding Player (definitely deserved) is the answer to a trivia question that will stump everyone in five years
UGH! Villanova??? Again??? I thought we got rid of you!
Yeah, this team was something. They played in three incredibly competitive games, and will certainly get the moment of this tournament. They were awesome. A very close win over St. John’s was followed by a war of attrition against UConn, which was won by a clutch offensive rebound by Jermaine Samuels, then a slog of a game against Creighton.
Since I vividly remember this tournament, a couple of honorary mentions. First, Simas Lukosius and Chuck Harris came through in a win over Xavier, this game was incredible and the young Dawgs shined through. In the very next game for these Dawgs, Al Durham nails a corner three which iced it for the Friars, who won yet another close game. That team had some sort of magic, I swear.
Also, the only Big East Tournament game I’ve been able to watch (I was there for some networking event so I missed Nova’s huge comeback over the Johnnies, though I can tell you I just sat by the TV in the room eating popcorn when the game was close, cuz screw networking, right?) in-person, was Seton Hall/UConn which… well was certainly a basketball game.
But the winner could be Brandon Slater’s two free-throws to beat St. John’s, but the pick has to be Collin Gillespie lifting the Big East Tournament Championship Trophy one year removed from a Torn ACL, which took him out of the tournament and ended his season. It was a fitting end for one of the best point guards in Villanova history.
The story is still being written here. Later today, we figure it out. What’s the front-runner at this point? Who’s the guy to deliver the moment?
What we do know is that this is Marquette’s first-ever appearance in a Big East Tournament Championship Game, and Xavier’s second. We will have a first-time champion this year. That’s awesome. I’m happy for either fanbase, who gets to see their team lift that trophy, and even happier for the players who get to be a part of their school's history, and will be remembered as the guys who finally broke through. It’s going to be awesome that’s for sure. These have been fairytale seasons for both programs, I’m excited to see who comes out on top.
What an awesome, awesome season it’s been. I’ve been blessed to be on this journey with everyone, experiencing this season as a whole. It’s been a ton of fun. It’s my first season doing something like this, and I’ve made my fair share of mistakes (shocker), but really it’s been an absolute blast. I wouldn’t change it for the world. Even though my teams ain’t here, I promise I won’t go anywhere for the tournament, for better or worse. I’ll (hopefully, they better not can me) be back next season, better than ever. But, thanks for everything! Thanks to all of you, you’re the best and welcomed this loud-mouthed idiot with open arms, and I’m grateful for it all.
Now, we’ve got a championship game, let’s get to it!