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Monday, Mar. 14, 2005 - 10:16 a.m.

Big East Blog: Championship Night

Syracuse 68, West Virginia 59
The first two days of the Big East Tournament, when there are four games played out in two doubleheader sessions (yet only three the first day this year because of St. John's self-imposed postseason ban), you wonder just how you can get through it all. They are two long days, if you attend every game, even part of them. Depending on how far outside NYC you live and how you get to Madison Square Garden, you have to start making your way into the city by about 10:30 in order to make the noon tip-off for the first game. After watching two contests, it's about 4:30-5 p.m. and everyone is ushered out of the arena, left on their own to find dinner somewhere. In past years, I've zipped all the way to the Village to meet friends who ended up cancelling without having any way to reach me, so I drank a few pints and watched Kenyon Martin's season end with a broken leg for Cincinnati. My dad and I have walked over to a nearby Friday's for dinner too. This year, we went up to 47th for burgers at Scruffy Duffy's on the first day, then stayed in-house at MSG's Play By Play sports bar between the third and fourth sessions, held on day two.

But then you get to Friday, semifinal day, and you're left with three games to go. There are two on Friday night, usually outstanding, intriguing matchups between the four hottest teams in the league. Conventional wisdom would say they're the four best teams in the league, but that's not always the case. The long haul of the season showed that West Virginia wasn't better than Georgetown, Notre Dame, Villanova or Boston College. Yet with some hot shooting in the first two rounds, they reached the semifinals on Friday night and took out Villanova to move on to Saturday's championship game. The second Friday game, between UConn and Syracuse, was the defacto championship game, in the minds of many, because it featured two of the three best teams in the conference for the season. It was quite the game, too, living up to everyone's expectations, with the possible exception of those from Connecticut.

But by Saturday, you can't believe it's all over now. During those first two days, I wondered if I could make it through all four days, all 10 games. I'd been squeezing myself between my father and Matt for approximately 16 hours before the final and I was ready to have my personal space back. I thought to myself that there was no way I'd do this regularly, that I wasn't sure if I'd make it back next year. But when Saturday's tip goes up, you're not sure if you're ready for it to end. I'm sure the feeling would be heightened if Notre Dame had stayed alive, or if West Virginia had made it a closer game against Syracuse. But after three days of hot shooting, hitting 47 percent of their 3-pointers and 49 percent of their shots overall, they had no legs left. Against the Orange, they managed just 31 percent on their threes and 36 percent overall.

After the game on Saturday night, Casey asked me if I'll be going next year, or every year, and I said I wouldn't be. I'll go again, but I'll pick and choose my years, most likely based on how Notre Dame's season looks. Next year will be a tough one to decide, with Chris Thomas leaving (which could be beneficial) but the other four starters returning, not to mention the arrival of at least two intriguing freshmen, one who's a big body for the frontcourt, the other a scoring point guard who may slide right into Thomas's spot.

Now, though, with the NCAA Tournament brackets flying through copy machines in offices all over the country, I'm hoping for and planning to make two more college games at MSG. The Irish are in the NIT and three more victories will bring them back to the Big Apple, hopefully to head home with some sort of championship for this season.

Previous page: Big East Blog: Semifinals
Next page: Stagnation, that's what I feel

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