The 2022 Big East Tournament will be played at Madison Square Garden in New York City for the 40th straight year. The venue is the same and there are some teams that remain, but the glory days of the Big East Men's Basketball Tournament are long gone.
The conference lost Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech first. Then from 2012-14, the bigger schism occurred. West Virginia left for the Big 12, Rutgers went to the Big Ten, and Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame departed for the ACC.
Seven schools would also leave to form the new Big East Conference, including Georgetown, Villanova and St. John's. Connecticut and the remaining old Big East schools would become the American Athletic Conference. UConn would later join the new Big East in 2020, rejoining schools like Creighton, Seton Hall, Xavier, Marquette, DePaul and Providence College.
This was an unfortunate time for college basketball purists, especially with the transparency of colleges making decisions so clearly for monetary reasons. Fans of the classic Big East are now in the same situation as NFL fans wishing the draft would go back to a Saturday/Sunday schedule.
With the golden age of Big East basketball over, now is a great opportunity to remember and honor six Big East Conference Tournament Champions from the early 2000s, the era right before everything that was great about the Big East would change.
6 Big East Champions Who Achieved Greatness Before the Conference Fell Apart
6. 2001 Boston College
Final AP Poll Ranking: No. 7
Overall Record: 27-5
Big East Record: 13-3
NCAA Tournament Finish: Lost in 2nd Round to USC (74-71)
The history of the Boston College basketball team is not filled with championship moments. This is what makes the team's 2000-01 run under head coach Al Skinner so special. The Eagles had been putrid the prior season, going 11-19 and only winning 3 games in the Big East.
Boston College was powered by star sophomore guard Troy Bell, who averaged 20+ points per game. Bell would go on to win the Big East Tournament's Dave Gavitt Trophy for Most Outstanding Player. Also, Bell would be the only member of this BC team to eventually make the NBA, as he was drafted 16th overall by the Boston Celtics in the 2003 NBA Draft.
Another BC player who should also be remembered was Power Forward Jonathan Beerbohm. The senior didn't start for the Eagles but still averaged nearly 20 minutes per game. He had such a strong Big East Tournament performance he was named to the All-Tournament Team.
Beerbohm was also an exceptional athlete. If he was on the 2022 BC roster his impressive dunking ability would likely cause the Friday Beers Instagram account to implode in on itself like a dying star.
5. 2003 Pittsburgh Panthers
Final AP Poll Ranking: No. 4
Overall Record: 28-5
Big East Record: 13-3
March Madness Finish: Lost in Sweet 16 to Marquette (77-74)
The success of this Panthers roster was a true team effort. While they were led by guards Brandin Knight and Julius Page, no one on the team averaged more than 12 points per game. Instead, Pittsburgh relied on spreading the ball around as SIX different players averaged double-digit scoring.
As February began, Pittsburgh was 15-1 and looking to be the new No. 1 team in the country. However, they lost a nail-biter to Syracuse in the Carrier Dome and finished the regular season going 8-3. The Panthers still received a bye in the first round of the Big East Tourney.
Pittsburgh would roll through the Tournament, beating Providence by 10, Boston College by 13 and then Connecticut by 18 in the championship game. Page won the Gavitt Trophy and Knight was named to the All-Tournament Team. Knight was also joined on the All-Tournament Team by four other future NBA players in Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, Craig Smith and Carmelo Anthony.
4. 2004 Connecticut Huskies
Final AP Poll Ranking: No. 7
Overall Record: 33-6
Big East Record: 12-4
March Madness Finish: Won National Championship against Georgia Tech (82-73)
This UConn team was quite simply, stacked. The roster included SIX future NBA players, including four lottery picks:
- Emeka Okafor - No. 2 pick in 2004
- Ben Gordon - No. 3 pick in 2004
- Charlie Villanueva - No. 7 pick in 2005
- Hilton Armstrong - No. 12 pick in 2006
- Marcus Williams - No. 22 in 2006
- Josh Boone - No. 23 pick in 2006
They also had two wings in Rashad Anderson and Denham Brown who combined to average 20 points per game and shot 40 percent from three. It's almost impressive this team found a way to lose six games during the season.
One such loss was at Pittsburgh, who the Huskies had beaten at home earlier in the season. The Panthers were ranked No. 4 and UConn was ranked No. 5, and Pittsburgh pulled off the victory 75-68. The Huskies would get their revenge later in the season though.
UConn was the 2 seed in the Big East Tournament and took care of business vs. Notre Dame and Villanova. Then they had their long-awaited rubber match vs. Pittsburgh. In a tight game, UConn won 61-58 and Gordon was named Tournament MVP.
The Huskies were not done achieving glory that year. They would overcome a seven-point halftime deficit to beat Duke 79-78 in the Final Four. UConn opened the championship game vs. Georgia Tech with a 15-point halftime lead and held on for an 82-73 victory and a national title.
3. 2006 Syracuse Orange
Final AP Poll Ranking: No. 21
Overall Record: 23-12
Big East Record: 7-9
NCAA Tournament Finish: Lost in 1st Round to Texas A&M (66-58)
Syracuse won the 2005 Big East Tournament, but after losing Gavitt Trophy winner Hakim Warrick to the NBA, back-to-back titles didn't seem likely. Except no one told Gerry McNamara that.
McNamara arrived on the Syracuse campus at the same time as arguably the best freshman of all time in Carmelo Anthony. Even with Melo's star power shining all over the Carrier Dome, McNamara quickly became a fan favorite with his shooting skills. Syracuse's 2003 National Title will be forever linked to Melo, but the Orangemen don't win the game without McNamara's six three-pointers in the first half.
In 2006, McNamara was a senior and entering his final Big East Tournament. The Orange had a fine season, going 23-12 but were only 7-9 in the Big East and weren't close to being favorites to win the tournament. That didn't matter to McNamara as he averaged 16 points and eight assists while shooting 46 percent from the three-point line in four wins vs. Cincinnati, UConn, Georgetown and Pittsburgh. McNamara won the Gavitt Trophy and had a storybook close to his college career.
2. 2007 Georgetown Hoyas
Final AP Poll Ranking: No. 8
Overall Record: 30-7
Big East Record: 13-3
March Madness Finish: Lost in Final Four to Ohio State (67-60)
The 2006-07 Georgetown Hoyas had a mediocre start to their season, going 4-3 with a 13-point loss to Old Dominion. They course-corrected though and went 19-3 to close out the regular season and earn the one seed in the Big East Tournament.
The Hoyas were led by two Juniors from Maryland in Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert. The duo combined to average 27 points and 13 rebounds for the season. Sharpshooter Jonathan Wallace also shot 49 percent from the three and averaged two treys a game.
However, there was also a compelling father-son story for this team. Head Coach John Thompson III was the son of legendary Georgetown coach John Thompson II. Legendary Georgetown player Patrick Ewing's son, Pat Ewing Jr., was a key bench player averaging nearly 15 minutes per game. Doc Rivers' son Jeremiah also averaged 12 minutes per game off the bench.
Georgetown had close calls in their first two Big East Tournament matchups. They first beat Villanova 62-57 and then outlasted Notre Dame 84-82. In the Championship game, the Hoyas were able to create more breathing room and defeated Pittsburgh 65-42.
Green won the Gavitt Trophy, while Hibbert and super Freshman DaJuan Summers made the All-Tournament Team. Unfortunately, this would be Thompson III's only Big East Tournament title but he was named Big East Coach of the Year in 2013.
1. 2009 Louisville Cardinals
Final AP Poll Ranking: No. 1
Overall Record: 31-6
Big East Record: 16-2
NCAA Tournament Finish: Lost in Elite Eight to Michigan State (64-52)
What do people remember about the figure skating competition in the 1994 Winter Olympics? The Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding scandal. They even made a movie about it! The world was watching waiting to see if Kerrigan or Harding would take home the gold.
Except neither did. The gold went to Ukranian figure skater Oksana Baiul. The 2009 Louisville Cardinals are Oksana Baiul.
For this to have happened something truly captivating and memorable needed to occur in the 2009 Big East Tournament. And in the Quarterfinals, that's exactly what transpired when Syracuse and UConn played a game that lasted SIX overtimes.
As for the 2008-09 Louisville team? They went 16-2 in the Big East and were No. 1 in the Final AP Poll. Their top four players (Earl Clark, Terrence Williams, Samardo Samuels and Jerry Smith) all went to the NBA. The Cardinals would beat Syracuse 76-66 to earn head coach Rick Pitino's first Big East Tournament Championship.
And yet Syracuse guard Johnny Flynn still won the Gavitt Trophy, and fellow Syracuse guard Eric Devendorf was the Tournament's top scorer.
The Future is Full of Potential for the Big East
This walk down memory lane won't bring back the joy of classic Big East Tournaments. It's nice to revisit some of these classic teams and moments, but college hoops fans also have to be ready to move on.
The 2022 Tournament won't feel the same, but now is the time to start making new Big East memories.
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