A Look Back on Big East Basketball

Story posted March 7, 2013 in Sports, CommRadio by Tyler Feldman

When the Big East Conference was formed back in 1979, its sole purpose was to give fans the very best college basketball had to offer. Providence, St. John’s, Georgetown, and Syracuse were joined by Connecticut and Seton Hall to make the original six schools in the conference.

Then Villanova and Pitt decided to get in on the action. Currently, 15 teams are playing Big East basketball.

The words “Big Monday," which ESPN created in 1987 to get college basketball fans excited for Big East basketball, no longer needs to get up out of bed in the morning. Its final wakeup call was this past Monday as No. 8 Louisville beat up on Cincinnati to get Coach Rick Pitino win number 300 as coach of the Cardinals.

The 2012-13 college basketball season is the final year of the historic Big East, at least as how we are used to knowing it. A conference that was originally established specifically for basketball that later transferred into a football oriented conference, will continue to exist through the name, but through different teams.

In light of serious conference realignments, the Big East is disbanding following the conclusion of the season. Pitt, Syracuse, Louisville and Notre Dame will all be taking their talents to the ACC, while the seven Catholic schools will keep the Big East name and add Butler and Xavier to the new look conference.

The thoughts of no more true Big East tournaments at Madison Square Garden can certainly make the stomach twist and turn in pain.

However, such stomach churning means only one thing: thrilling memories were made during the golden days of Big East basketball.

Let’s take a look back at the five greatest Big East basketball games of all time.

5. Ramon gives Pitt Backyard Brawl win over WVU

The Pittsburgh Panthers beat the West Virginia Mountaineers 55-54 at the Pete in 2008.

Before West Virginia left for the Big 12 Conference, the Mountaineers would face off with the Panthers twice a year (home and home) in what is historically known as the Backyard Brawl.

Pitt and WVU have shared countless memorable games, like in 2010 when Pitt won 98-95 in triple OT, but there is one reason why the game in 2008 will go down as the best Big East Backyard Brawl ever.

The picture of Ronald Ramon hitting the game winning 3-pointer brings back the clearest of memories. His shot defines the battle that was the Backyard Brawl. This game is probably the most underrated great Big East basketball game of all time because it was simply a regular season game.

There was nothing on the line, except for Backyard Brawl bragging rights. The way the Panthers stormed from behind to beat the Mountaineers on a game-winning buzzer beating 3-pointer by Ramon was magical. Both teams struggled shooting the entire contest: from the field, beyond the arc, and on the charity stripe. Yet when it counted most a player that is already forgotten by most was the hero.

The Memory: The heroes that left it all on the court, like Ramon, that now are doing things in life beyond the basketball court.

4. Roy Hibbert for three?

The Georgetown Hoyas beat the UConn Huskies 72-69 at the Verizon Center in 2008.

Similarly to the game above, this game definitely flies under the radar when it comes to great Big East games. With the score knotted up at 69, the No. 8 Hoyas had the ball with just 31.3 seconds remaining.

Anyone watching the game figured Hibbert would get the ball inside to put up the easy bucket for the win. But, this is Big East basketball we are talking about. The unusual is usual. Rather than inside on the block, Hibbert remains beyond the arc and sinks the game-winning 3-pointer with three seconds remaining.

The Memory: The big man can hit the three! Kevin Pittsnogle anyone?

3. Allen v. Allen

The UConn Huskies beat the Georgetown Hoyas in the 1996 Big East Championship Game.

Looking back at this game from the year 2013 makes it seem like this game was ages ago. Former Hoya Allen Iverson, who had a storied NBA career, is no longer playing in the NBA. Former Huskie Ray Allen is now a veteran on the Miami Heat. 

Each of these two great players did not stay in college very long, but the way in which each Allen led his team in the 1996 Big East Championship game will go down as one of the best games ever.

(Ray) Allen was held scoreless in the second half until he sank an off balance jumper with 15 seconds left to erase an 11-point Hoyas lead. Allen’s jumper capped a 12-0 run for the Huskies.

Iverson then took the ball end-to-end but missed his shot to win it from the foul line. Iverson finished with 13 points, while Allen finished with 20 points.

The Memory: What makes the Big East so magnificent was the fact that Georgetown forward Victor Page won the tournament MVP. HE WAS ON THE LOSING TEAM!

2. Luck of the Irish shock Hoyas in 4 OT

Notre Dame beats Georgetown 116-111 at the Verizon Center in 2002.

Another Big East regular season game. Another thriller. The Fighting Irish pulled out a 116-111 four OT victory on the road over the Hoyas.

The story line has to be about Irish freshman point guard Chris Thomas. He played all 60 minutes and did not commit a single turnover the entire contest.

Hoya guard Kevin Braswell had three chances to win the game for Georgetown at the end of regulation and after the first two overtime periods, but missed all three shots. Mike Sweetney had a monstrous game with 35 points, 22 rebounds, and six blocks for the Hoyas.

The Memory: This one is more like a lesson: Never disrespect Mike Brey and the luck of the Irish.

1. Syracuse/UConn Six OT Thriller

Syracuse downs UConn in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament 127-117 in six OT.

Without a doubt this is the greatest Big East basketball game of all time. The game on paper says six overtimes, but in reality this game took three hours and 46 minutes to complete.

A game that began on a Thursday night at Madison Square Garden did not finish until 1:32 am come Friday morning. The Orange had multiple chances to win the game in regulation.

After Kemba Walker tied the game on a put-back with a second remaining, Eric Devendorf sent the ball into orbit in desperation. The ball landed smoothly in the net, but after celebration the refs signaled that he did not get the shot off in time.

So ensued the game that did not want to end.

Jonny Flynn finished with 34 points and 11 assists in 67 minutes and sixth-man Andy Rautins supplied 20 points, while shooting 6-for-12 from downtown, nailed a big 3-pointer down the stretch for the Orange, who finished with a staggering 127 points.

A.J. Price’s 33 points just were not enough, as they finished with 117 points. The marathon game will be a classic for years to come and will serve as not only the most recent memory, but also the most memorable game in Big East history.

The Memory: Some games just do not want to and should not want to end.

Honorable Mentions

1. Jerome Lane – His dunk against Providence on January 25, 1988 will go down as the greatest dunk in Big East basketball history.

2. Gerry McNamara – The Syracuse guard is awarded for having the single greatest individual performance in Big East tournament history. Syracuse, who was the No. 9 seed in the tournament, went on to win it all thanks in large part to McNamara. In the first game of the tournament, McNamara hit a 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds remaining to beat No. 8 seed Cincinnati 74-73. In the quarterfinals, McNamara hit a 3-pointer with 5.6 seconds remaining to force overtime against No. 1 seed UConn. His two free throws in overtime sealed the deal for the Orange as they went on to win 86-84. In the semifinals, McNamara slipped a pass to Devendorf for the game-winning bucket with 9.3 seconds remaining to beat the Hoyas 58-57. Then McNamara finished the run as he helped the Orange down Pitt 65-61 in the championship game. McNamara set a tournament record with 16 threes and was awarded the Dave Gavitt Trophy for being the MVP of the tournament. Three claps for Mr. McNamara.

3. Kemba Walker- The UConn star and now Charlotte Bobcats point guard did his best Gerry McNamara impressions in 2011 as he carried the Huskies on his back. Walker crossed-over Pitt’s Gary McGhee and sank the game-winning shot as time expired to defeat No. 3 ranked Pitt and advance to the semi-finals. He then led UConn to an overtime victory over Syracuse in the semifinals. After defeating Louisville in the championship game, Walker was named the tournament’s MVP. He scored a Big East Tournament record 130 points in five games, which helped UConn be the very first school to win five games in five days to win a conference championship. UConn would then win the national title a few weeks later with the guidance of Walker.

4. Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin – Arguably two of the best Big East basketball players of all time. Both players set the stage for the future of Big East basketball. Thank you.

Tyler Feldman is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email tfeldman5@gmail.com.

About the Contributors

Tyler Feldman's photo

Tyler Feldman

Senior / Broadcast Journalism and Marketing

Currently, Feldman is an executive producer, reporter and anchor for the Centre County Report, as well as ComRadio’s senior sports director. He also is the host of the Penn State Coaches Show featuring Guy Gadowsky, which airs live from Lettermans on ESPN Radio 1450 and GoPSUSports.com every Tuesday night at 6 p.m. Additionally, he was the first to report the hiring of Joe Moorhead as Penn State football’s new offensive coordinator on December 12, 2015.

He’s a member of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism within the College of Communications and enrolled in the Smeal College of Business.

Feldman, a Pittsburgh native, has broadcasted sporting events from a number of international and professional venues, including Estadio Latinoamericano in Cuba, Madison Square Garden, CONSOL Energy Center, Wells Fargo Center, MetLife Stadium, M&T Bank Stadium, and EverBank Field.

Last spring, he traveled with the Penn State men’s volleyball team as their play-by-play man, announcing his very first NCAA tournament matches at Stanford’s Maples Pavilion.

He has gained valuable broadcasting and reporting experience interning and working at WTAJ-TV, MLB Network, GoPSUSports.com, 105.9 The X, 970 AM ESPN, Big Ten Network Student U, and State College’s ESPN Radio 1450.

Feldman has a strong passion for sports and dreams to become a sports anchor/reporter in a national market and/or a hockey play-by-play announcer.