The quarterfinal round of the 2011 Big East Tournament was completed late Thursday night when No. 3 Louisville demolished No. 11 Marquette, 81-56. The nightcap was not very dramatic, but the first two contests of round three were as No. 4 Syracuse edged No. 5 St. John's, 79-73, and No. 9 UConn upset No. 1 Pittsburgh, 76-74. In game three, No. 2 Notre Dame romped past No. 7 Cincinnati, 89-51.
However, the game recaps (click the links) just tell the stories of Thursday, but there’s a lot more that Big East basketball fans learned. Here's a rundown of the day-three lessons taught at Madison Square Garden:
Lesson 1: Pittsburgh guard Ashton Gibbs deserved to be on the All-Big East First Team.
There were a lot of unhappy Syracuse basketball fans Monday when senior forward Rick Jackson was left off the first-team list. Those who thought Jackson should be on probably believed the 6-foot-2 guard from Pitt should have been taken off. Well, Gibbs answered those critics by shooting 6-of-7 from 3-point land and totaling a game-best 27 points in Pittsburgh's third-round loss to UConn. Gibbs went toe-to-toe with a Big East Player Of The Year candidate (Walker) and almost single-handedly willed the Panthers to victory. Sorry, SU fans. Gibbs belongs on the team.
Lesson 2: UConn's Walker is more than capable of pulling a "Gerry McNamara".
(SU fans must love that an improbable Big East title run led by one player is now referred to as pulling a "Gerry McNamara".)
It will be tough for the Huskies to win five games in five days (McNamara and SU did four in four), but if any player is talented enough to lead such a rally, Walker would be that player. At the beginning of the year, Walker netted 30, 31 and 29 points in a three-day run at the Maui Invitational, Nov. 22-24. UConn won the tournament after defeating the then-No. 9 Kentucky Wildcats, 84-67.
In three games, Walker has netted 26, 28 and 24 points; and hit "The Shot Heard Around Manhattan (2011 Remix)".
Kemba Walker Hits the Game Winning Jumper for UConn at the Buzzer Over Pitt (via ESPN)
Lesson 4: Notre Dame is the best team in the Big East Conference.
It's an easy statement to make after Pitt lost and the Irish blew out Cincinnati. These guys are going to make me look like an idiot when they make the Final Four with ease. If Notre Dame can't collect its first Big East Tournament title with this team (heck, even its first finals appearance might do) then I don't know when the curse of Mike Brey will end.
Either way, Notre Dame is looking like a solid No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Another victory in the tournament might help them lock down a No. 1 seed.
Here's the 2011 Big East Tournament semifinal schedule:
Semifinals (Friday, March 11): No. 9 UConn vs. No. 4 Syracuse (7 p.m. on ESPN): No. 2 Notre Dame vs. No. 3 Louisville Cardinals (9 p.m. on ESPN).
Championship (Saturday, March 12): Semifinal winners (9 p.m. on ESPN).