Sunday, March 14, 2010
The Big East Tournament
It's been 26 years since WVU has won a basketball conference tournament. I was six years old when the Mountaineers beat St. Bonneventure in the Atlantic Ten finals and I don't recall a second of it. This was long before I even knew what a basketball was.
In 2005, John Beilein, Mike Gansey and Kevin Pittsnogle lead the Mountaineers to the Big East Tournament finals on one of the most unlikely runs. WVU, the number 7 seed, upset the number one (Boston College) and number three (Villanova) seeds before losing to Syracuse in the championship game. I attended that game and left Madison Square Garden and New York City wondering when we'd ever have another opportunity at a conference title as great as that one.
You see, the Big East is the best basketball conference in the universe. It's built on grit. It's built on muscle. It's built on defense. It's built on strength and intensity. There is very little finesse in the Big East. The likes of Rip Hamilton, Derrick Coleman, Ray Allen and Carmello Anthony have all graced the floor of Madison Square garden while fighting for their squads during the Big East Tournament. That's why Da'Sean Butler and the rest of the Mountaineers' performance last night was so damn impressive.
We've always been the little guy. Not yesterday, and not this year, however.
On the heels of a Da'Sean Butler buzzer beater against Cincinnati and a narrow victory against Notre Dame in their second game of the tournament, WVU faced Georgetown for the conference title.
The Mountaineers did not disappoint.
With nine seconds left in a tie game, Da'Sean "Big Shot" Butler took an in-bounds pass, drove the lane and put up a twisting, maneuvering, contorted shot that fell with only four seconds left. The Mountaineers were up 60-58. Georgetown didn't call a time out and immediately pushed the ball up the court only to miss a layup as time expired. The Mountaineers were conference champions.
The scene at MSG was amazing. Bob Huggins was near tears while being interviewed on national television. Da'Sean Butler was smiling from ear to ear while receiving tournament MVP recognition. The championship trophy was being hoisted by Wellington Smith, Kevin Jones, Devin Ebanks and Joe Mazzula. Joe Mazzula, a guy who pushed through a terrible shoulder injury to be in that exact place... holding a Big East Championship trophy over his head. All the while, the likes of "Country Roads," and "We are the Champions" echoed throughout Madison Square Garden. Quite frankly, it was almost unbelievable.
From here the Mountaineers enter the NCAA Tournament. At this point WVU could be a one or a two seed. They could end up playing as close as Buffalo, New York, or as far away as Long Beach, California. An early loss in this tournament, however, has the ability to turn a season sour. Let's go, Mountaineers. Let's preserve this Big East Championship.
Let's keep this thing going.
To be continued...