The second round of the 2011 Big East Conference Tournament was completed late Wednesday night when No. 11 Marquette Golden Eagles upset the defending tournament champions, No. 6 West Virginia Mountaineers, 67-61. The night cap was exciting, but game No. 2 will easily be the biggest water-cooler topic come Thursday as No. 5 St. John's beat No. 14 Rutgers, 65-63, in a controversial finish (we'll get to that later). Other second-round final scores were: No. 9 UConn downing No. 8 Georgetown, 79-62, and No. 7 Cincinnati routing No. 15 USF, 87-61.
The game recaps just tell the stories of Wednesday, but there’s a lot that Big East basketball fans learned. Here's a rundown of the day-two lessons taught at Madison Square Garden:
Lesson 1: Big East Conference referees Tim Higgins, Jim Burr and Earl Walton are trully allowed to call the game like they (don't) see it.
If you want the full breakdown (with video) of the Higgins-Burr-Walton gaffe just click this link, but I just would like to point out two things about the missed call(s) at the end of the Rutgers-St. John's game.
The first is the Twitter reaction that occurred after the conclusion of the gritty Big East contest that ended in chaos. If I had time to compile a tweet-blog of all the angry media and Big East basketball fans, I would. However, that would take hours, maybe days to put together. Let's just say I've never seen the word disgraceful used with so many curse words.
The second thing is that the Big East needs to really do something about this. This isn't about people making mistakes like umpire Jim Joyce did when he blew Armando Galarraga's chance at a perfect game last June. (At least, Joyce was still trying to do his job.) This is about men literally NOT doing what they're paid to do. Seconds after the horn sounded, Higgins was in the tunnel headed to the free postgame buffet (if New York-style pizza was waiting for him then I understand) instead of making sure the game ended correctly.
ESPN annalist Digger Phelps said the referees were probably too fatigued from working five days a week and that's maybe why they didn't get the call(s) right. Wait, what?
That's why they were ready to leave their job before it ended? That's why not one of the three referees did not call the traveling or out of bounds violation on St. John's senior forward Justin Brownlee? If that's the case the NCAA and the Big East Conference needs to implement physical fitness tests before each season. I guess, that will fix this problem.
Lesson 2: UConn junior guard Kemba Walker is the conference's best player, but only when he wants to be.
Walker's 28-point performance Wednesday and 26-point show Tuesday proved that No. 15 should have won the Big East's Player Of The Year award. However, he didn't want it bad enough. There's no doubt in my mind that Walker will be a stellar point guard in the NBA, but he has a lot of growing to do.
I understand that it's a little unfair to blame everything on Walker, especially when sometimes (if not all the time) he's the only UConn option. But so is St. John's senior guard Dwight Hardy and Providence senior guard Marshon Brooks, who each had more impressive seasons than the more talented Walker.
Here's the updated 2011 Big East Tournament schedule for Wednesday:
Noon (ESPN): No. 1 Pittsburgh Panthers vs. No. 9 Connecticut Huskies; 2 p.m. (ESPN): No. 4 Syracuse vs. No. 5 St. John's Red Storm; 7 p.m. (ESPN): No. 2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. No. 7 Cincinnati Bearcats; 9 p.m. (ESPN): No. 3 Louisville Cardinals vs. WVU/Marquette.
Here's a rundown for the final two days:
Semifinals (Friday, March 11): Thursday afternoon winners (7 p.m. on ESPN): Thursday evening winners (9 p.m. on ESPN).
Championship (Saturday, March 12): Semifinal winners (9 p.m. on ESPN).