The Big East Conference Tournament is where legends are made.
Ray Allen and Allen Iverson all but counted off 10 paces, turned and fired in an epic championship game 20 years ago. Allen’s off-balance jumper with 14 seconds left somehow dropped, giving UConn a 75-74 victory over Georgetown. The unforgettable game at the World’s Most Famous Arena launched two legendary NBA careers.
Kemba Walker, the pride of The Bronx, led UConn to five wins in five nights, as the Huskies won the 2011 league tourney title. The Huskies would go on to win the next six straight, culminating with a victory over Kentucky in the NCAA Championship game.
Patrick Ewing became the first to win two Big East Conference Tournament MVP awards. Ewing went on to stamp himself as one of the greatest Knicks of all time.
Yes, the Big East Tournament is Legend Land.
“I think The Garden is the mecca of college basketball,’’ said Villanova coach Jay Wright.
Villanova’s Josh Hart joined the Legend’s Club Saturday evening in the World’s Most Famous Arena. Hart scored a game-high 29 points as the Wildcats won their second league tournament title in three years, downing Creighton, 74-60.
Hart joins Ewing and former Louisville guard Peyton Siva as the only two-time MVPs in Big East tournament history. The Wildcats (31-3) will likely earn the overall No. 1 seed in the upcoming in NCAA Tournament, which Nova won last season. Creighton (25-9) will receive an at-large berth.
Hart will forever be part of Big East Conference Tournament lore.
“I’m not thinking about that now,’’ Hart said. “I’ve got one month left of my college basketball career. And I can’t think about that now.’’
We will think about it for him.
Statistically, Hart and Kerry Kittles are the most accomplished players in Villanova history. But Hart has two Big East Conference Tournament titles and two league tournament MVPs compared to Kittles’ one. Hart is part of the winningest senior class in Villanova history, having celebrated 128 Ws.
And, of course, Hart has one national title. Villanova will try to become the first school to win back-to-back titles since Florida did so in 2006 and 2007 when they were led by Knicks center Joakim Noah.
Nova has Hart.
“It’s amazing, he was tournament MVP as a sophomore, and he’s better in every aspect of the game,’’ said Wright. “He’s such a better player, which is amazing if you think about it, that he won it and he’s better in every aspect of the game.
“I think he’s the best, most complete player in the country.’’
STAT OF THE DAY: Hart scored his 29 points by making 9-of-18 shots, going 4-of-8 on threes and 7-of-8 from the line.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “In a lot of ways, from a coaching perspective, the way [Villanova plays] is how we all aspire to get our teams to play,’’ Creighton coach Greg McDermott.