During this week, you will be inundated with columns written with a common theme — how we should all be nostalgic and sentimental as the final Big East Conference basketball tournament (as we know it) will be played at Madison Square Garden.
My guess is there will be 4,395,184 of these columns — give or take — that have different words but all say precisely the same thing.
Certainly, this is a bit of a time for retrospection for a league that was established in 1979 and originally consisted of Boston College, Connecticut, Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Syracuse, speedily expanded to nine teams with Villanova joining in 1980 and then Pitt becoming a member in 1982.
The Big East basketball tournament – which now has a 14-team bracket – has been contested at Madison Square Garden since 1983.
During this week, columnists will type columns from that venue, reflectively regaling us about when Chris Mullin played in the Big East tournament.
Patrick Ewing will be mentioned countless times, Pearl Washington, too.
Charles Smith — the one from Georgetown and the one from Pitt — will make their way into print.
Sherman Douglas, Terry Dehere, Scoonie Penn, Bootsy Thornton, Troy Bell and Kerry Kittles will most likely be typed into a columnist’s keyboard a time or two as they remind us all how great this event was, how great this league was.
I don’t disagree.
But here’s the thing: We will all forget, at least to some degree. It will all soon be yesterday’s news — especially here in Pittsburgh.
As Pitt — along with Syracuse — shuffles from the Big East into the Atlantic Coast Conference next season, the reverence with how we all view the Big East, and the conference’s postseason tournament, will quickly fade next season when that first basketball is tossed into the air as Pitt plays their initial ACC game.
Think about it, because I have.
For everything going on this week, for all the memories that are zipping through your head about this being the end of the Big East, the thought here is how some occurrences in the future will make it all fade away.
Think quickly for a second about Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, the man seemingly everyone who isn’t a Duke fan loves to hate. There’s no middle ground with him; he truly is a polarizing figure. Think ahead to next season, when Krzyzewski and his Blue Devils basketball team head out onto the floor in front of the Oakland Zoo at the Petersen Events Center.
Having the Big East tournament — and Big East opponents on your schedule — is nice. But that’s Duke, the standard-bearer for NCAA basketball success playing right in front of you each season; right here at The Pete.
Again, the Big East will be yesterday’s news.
Think about the same situation with North Carolina at The Pete. Or, think about loading your
friends up and making a roadtrip to the Dean Dome to watch Pitt play against the Tar Heels. That isn’t Rutgers, that isn’t Providence, that isn’t Villanova or Marquette — that is North Carolina, at North Carolina.
The Big East will be yesterday’s news.
Among others, there’s also Miami, a sudden-upstart in the league, North Carolina State and Virginia and a couple of programs which won’t be down too long – Georgia Tech and Wake Forest.
As someone who has been to both the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden and the ACC tournament in Greensboro, there’s no question the Big East version is better. But to patently throw aside the ACC tournament as something that doesn’t, in excitement, rival the Big East tournament is foolish and, truth be told, downright inaccurate.
So go ahead and enjoy the Big East tournament this week.
Understand, honestly, it is the end of an era. But don’t make too much about these few days or the end of Pitt’s basketball affiliation with the Big East ending.
We will all soon forget about it.
When you see Duke, when you see North Carolina, when you see Pitt fighting during the regular season for Greensboro seeding and then fighting more so in the ACC tournament, no one will think much about the Big East.
Former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sports Writer Colin Dunlap is the featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10p-2a on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.