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The Ten Biggest Moments and Stories in the Big East of 2022

From start to finish, 2022 has been a wild year. It featured the final run of one Big East dynasty, and perhaps the beginning steps of a new one. Two of the old bloods in the conference trended in opposite directions, with one reaching new heights while the other sank to the very bottom. And, while the conference faced plenty of change, not all of the new faces are unfamiliar.

Not all of our favorite moments could make the cut, but we did the best we could to narrow it down to the ten most important ones right here.

Some of the ones that just missed the cut include the triple-overtime thriller in Providence between the Friars and Musketeers, complete with the leaky roof; DePaul and Creighton meeting in the conference's first Christmas game; Alex O'Connell's buzzer-beating 3-pointer that helped lift Creighton over Marquette; and Shaka Smart's Golden Eagles tearing through Big East play in his first season, winning seven straight including a blowout win over Providence and a victory at the Finn.

10. The RJ Cole Game

Two twenty-win teams met on February 22, 2022…enough twos in there for you?

Every time Villanova and UConn meet, it’s a game to remember. The RJ Cole game was no exception.

The nearly sold-out crowd at the XL Center in Hartford was raucous, and Dan Hurley took full advantage. Hurley picked up his first technical with less than 5 minutes in the first half after slamming the scorer's table in reaction to a no-call. He lifted his arms to pump up the crowd afterwards, and in less than a few seconds, he had a security escort back to the locker room.

The game came down to the last stretch, with the Huskies and the Wildcats trading blows. But it was RJ Cole that cemented the win for UConn - hitting a driving floater with 6 seconds left, then taking a charge on the other end when Collin Gillespie went to the paint.

Even though UConn had impressive wins at that point, this was the game that had the nation turning its heads to the Huskies. They were truly back in the Big East.

- Jake Zimmer

9. Providence Goes Back To The Sweet 16

The year was 1997, when Pete Gillen, Head Coach of the Providence Friars, took Austin Croshere, Derrick Brown, and God Shammgod to the Sweet 16. The was the farthest the Friars have gone since 1987, but that all changed in 2022.

Enter Ed Cooley, who this season took home Naismith Coach of the Year, brought history and excellence back to the program. In his 6th NCAA tournament appearance as Providence’s head coach, Cooley led the Friars back to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 25 years.

All season long, Cooley and the team dealt with analytical doubters, hence their nickname as “lucky”, yet they cruised past both South Dakota and Richmond in the first two rounds of the tournament, ultimately falling to the eventual champion, Kansas, 66-61. To come within five of the outright winners is something to smile about. It was also the bow that wrapped a fantastic season for Providence, including their first regular season championship in Big East history, a 24-4 overall record, and being ranked in the AP and Coaches Top-25 polls for most of the season, including going as high as 8/9.

- Will Tondo

Photo by Matt St. Jean.

8. Collin Gillespie Wins First Big East Championship With Fans Since 2019

The Big East Tournament is one of the best events in sports, but it lost some of the magic without fans in 2021. After being there when the event was cancelled in 2020, experiencing a sold-out Madison Square Garden at the Big East Championship for the first time since 2019 was almost spiritual.

With Villanova trailing late against Creighton, Jay Wright only had one number he needed to dial: No. 2. He called on Collin Gillespie, the Big East Player of the Year, to deliver for him yet again. And in storybook fashion, he did. It was the conference's best player, back after suffering a serious injury the year before, winning the tournament for his coach, set for a retirement no one knew was coming. The 2021-22 Big East season got the Disney ending.

- Matt St. Jean

7. Georgetown Held Without A Big East Win

The Georgetown Hoyas went the entirety of the 2022 calendar year without a Big East win. That's 23 straight Big East losses beginning on January 7 with a 28-point loss to Marquette with the most recent defeat on December 29 at the hands of DePaul.

Head coach Patrick Ewing is in his sixth year in charge Georgetown. He is its most legendary player, having led the Hoyas to the only national championship in school history in 1984. And yet, it simply hasn't worked with him at the helm. Without the miraculous 2021 Big East Tournament championship, would he still be the coach?

These lovable losers will enter 2023 with their last Big East win well over 600 days ago and only negative records left to be eclipsed. Surely it can't get any worse, right?

- Zach Penrice

6. Four New Coaches, All Returning To Their Teams

For the first time in the history of the “New” Big East, the summer of ‘22 saw four new coaches join the ranks of the conference.

In a way it was a homecoming for each; all four coaches had been previously associated with their university as a coach or player.

One of the new coaches is a rising star, national darling Shaheen Holloway, who had captivated the country with his run to the Elite 8. Another coach, Xavier's Sean Miller, chases redemption after being dismissed from Arizona due to tampering allegations by the NCAA. The third, Thad Matta, is shaking off retirement and looking to prove he can make it in today's basketball environment. And the last coach has the biggest assignment of all, as Kyle Neptune looks to fill the shoes of a giant and make his stamp on the Villanova program.

The one consistent: all four coaches look to bring fresh energy and new ideas to gain success in a newly reinvigorated Big East.

- Ryan Cassidy

5. Transfer Portal Madness

With the one-time transfer waiver fully in effect, this past offseason had almost certainly the most intriguing pool of transfers in college hoops history. The Big East got quite a haul -- most notably in Baylor Scheierman and Bryce Hopkins.

Scheierman, a South Dakota State transfer, averaged 16.2 ppg and 7.8 rpg while shooting 47% from beyond the arc. He has eight double-doubles this season for Creighton, which tallies second in the conference. Bryce Hopkins, who came over from Kentucky, has propelled Providence to an 11-3 start which was highlighted by a double-OT victory over Marquette where Hopkins scored 29 points and added 23 rebounds as well.

We also saw the first Big East intra-conference transfers, headlined by David Jones, who left DePaul after averaging 14.5 ppg to join Mike Anderson at St. John's. Akok Akok and Corey Floyd Jr. also left their former Big East teams going from UConn to Georgetown and Providence, respectively.

One thing is for certain; the one-time transfer waiver has transformed the way coaches approach recruiting and building a team.

- Chris Thedinga

Photo by Matt St. Jean.

4. Providence Wins The Regular-Season Title For The First Time

Perhaps one of the most memorable, and historic, moments of 2022 was when the Providence Friars won the 2021-2022 Big East Regular Season Championship.

Creighton Coach Greg McDermott claimed that “the Golden State Warriors wouldn’t have won in that arena” on a late night in February, when the Providence Friars hosted the Creighton Blue Jays in the then called Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

This description certainly matched the atmosphere, as the Friars rolled past the Bluejays en route to a 72-51 victory, sealing the first Big East Regular Season title in program history.

For the first time since the inception of the school, since the late great Friar head coach, Dave Gavitt, founded the Big East Conference, the Providence College Friars hoisted the Big East Regular Season Champions trophy in their home state of Rhode Island, sealing one of the greatest campaigns put together by a Providence squad in nearly a quarter-century.

- Joe Haughey

3. UConn Opens 2022-23 In Dominant Fashion

Another great moment in 2022 was UConn winning the Phil Knight Invitational and remaining undefeated at the start of the season.

Watching UConn win the PKI was a masterclass of authentic Big East basketball. The Huskies steamrolled through every team they played in one of the bigger early-season tournaments. UConn beat Oregon 83-59 and then #18 ranked Alabama 82-67. Facing Iowa State, the Huskies dominated the glass and won 71-53 to secure their first-ever Phil Knight Invitational Championship. Freshman, Donovan Clingan was named tournament MVP who had 15 points and 10 rebounds in the championship game.

The Huskies are off to their best start since 1998-1999 and are looking to continue that trend into the New Year.

- George Hathaway

2. Ed Cooley Wins Naismith Coach Of The Year

They say the sign of a great coach is what their team does when games come down to the wire. If that is the measure, then Ed Cooley was as deserving as any coach to win Naismith Coach of the Year. Under Cooley, the 2021-22 Friars were nearly unbeatable in close games, posting a 12-2 record when games were decided by five or fewer points or in overtime.

From Jared Bynum's buzzer-beater at the Cintas Center to the team's 19-point comeback at Butler to a three-overtime, three-and-a-half-hour affair against Xavier at a leaky home venue, Ed Cooley always made sure Providence was ready for whatever happened. With a cast of homegrown recruits, tenured transfers, and veterans new to the program, the Friars made the Sweet 16 for the first time in a quarter-century. That's why he was the school's first ever national coach of the year winner.

- Matt St. Jean

(Photo from USA Today)

1. Jay Wright Retires

I mean, this had to be number one, right?

It was a brisk spring evening in April, when this tweet from respected NBA insider Shams Charania floated on our Twitter timelines like a time bomb ready to explode. Not even an hour later, this snowflake of information turned into a full-blown avalanche, and the metaphorical (wild)cat was out of the bag.

Jay Wright had retired.

An incoming phone call from Road to the Garden Founder and Head of Content Matt St. Jean had me scrambling for words, when for the first time in my life, I did not have any.

Jerold Taylor Wright rose from the ranks of a division three assistant coach to one of the most recognizable names (and fashion icons) in the sport. Wright brought a program on the brink of irrelevance to greatness, not once but twice. He has cemented the Villanova program as one of the premier destinations in the country for recruits and built a culture that is unmatched by any program in the country. Wright was the crutch that the Big East leaned on during the realignment and single handedly kept the conference above water for a better part of the last decade.

While the reigning AP Men’s Basketball Coach of the Decade has a laundry list of accomplishments longer than the Harry Potter trilogy, some (if not all) people who were lucky enough to have had the chance to meet Wright would tell you he is just as good a man as he is a coach. So, for all the people that have met Wright, and for the millions that have not and will not ever get the chance to, thank you.

- Tommy Godin


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