Both semifinal contests of the 2011 Big East Tournament went into overtime Friday night. First, behind junior guard Kemba Walker netting a tournament-best 32 points the No. 9-seeded Connecticut Huskies edged No. 4 Syracuse Orange, 76-71, at Madison Square Garden. In the nightcap, No. 3 Louisville Cardinals sneaked by No. 2 Notre Dame, 83-77. The extra-session results setup a third meeting between UConn (25-9) and Louisville (25-8) this season -- ironically, the Cardinals (ranked No. 14 in both polls) won both contests in OT.
UConn (No. 21 in the AP poll and No. 18 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll) will be trying to tie a conference record of winning seven Big East Tournament titles (Georgetown Hoyas have seven). The Huskies will also have a chance to break a tournament record of winning five games in five days to earn the Big East crown -- in 2006 the Syracuse Orange won four in four to earn their fifth tournament championship. Louisville will aim for its second tournament championship in three years.
However, the game recaps (click the links) just tell the stories of Friday, but there’s a lot more that Big East basketball fans learned. Here's a rundown of the day-three lessons taught at The World's Most Famous Arena:
Lesson 1: Madison Square Garden has magical powers.
No really, it does. How else can you explain Syracuse freshman center Fab Melo tallying 12 points, four rebounds and two blocks Thursday in a semifinal victory over St. John's, 79-73. And then, UConn freshman Tyler Olander scoring seven points and collecting four rebounds (he finished with six) in the first half of the Huskies OT victory on Friday night.
The unexplainable can only be explained by one thing. Magic.
Lesson 2: Never bad-talk Kemba Walker because he's half Jedi and will eventually mind trick you into saying good things about him.
On Wednesday, I said this about Walker:
"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."
On Thursday, I eased up a bit on No. 15:
"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."
On Friday night, I wrote this in my SYRACUSE REACTION PIECE:
"Syracuse basketball fans now know how Cincinnati, UConn, Georgetown and Pittsburgh felt after the 2006 Big East Tournament.
The comparison cannot be far off as the No. 9-seed Connecticut Huskies used a 32-point,12-rebound, 6-steal, 5-assist performance from junior guard Kemba Walker to beat No. 4 Syracuse Orange, 76-71, in overtime Friday night..."
Yes, I compared Walker to McNamara... Like I said, he's a Jedi.
Lesson 3: Sometimes 40 minutes just isn't enough.
Both semifinal contests ended up going into OT on Friday. Syracuse red shirt-senior Scoop Jardine nailed a back-to-back 3-pointers with less than 30 seconds to play and push UConn/SU into an extra five minutes, while Louisville rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit to help the 2011 Big East Tournament-OT total reach three (Rutgers defeated Seton Hall in OT in round one).
This is way so many people love this tournament. Every game (unless someone is playing DePaul) is more than likely going to be fantastic and coming down the final seconds. Which leads me to lesson No. 4...
Lesson 4: Drama is great when you're not a a part of it or you're watching it on television.
Examples include: The Jersey Shore, Cops and these highlights from the 2011 Big East Tournament.
In round one, Seton Hall senior guard nailed a last-second 3-pointer to send the tournament's second game into OT.
Seton Hall's Jeremy Hazell hits the OT-forcing #superhoop (via mocksessiondotcom)
In the very next contest, No. 10 Villanova blew a 16-point halftime advantage to lose to No. 15 USF, 70-69. Junior guard Anthony Crater was the hero for the Bulls.
Ballin' is a Habit - USF's Anthony Crater beats Villanova (via Tmachir)
Round two of the Big East Tournament provided fans their water-cooler talk as referees Tim Higgins, Jim Burr and Earl Walton missed (ignored) St. John's senior forward Justin Brownlee traveling and stepping out of bounds in the No. 5 Red Storm thrilling 65-63 victory over Rutgers. (For the 100th time, here's the breakdown.)
Rutgers-St.John's 2011 Big East Tournament (via Lebron6Wade3Bosh1)
Kemba Walker Hits the Game Winning Jumper for UConn at the Buzzer Over Pitt (via ESPN)
Which brings us to Friday night and the semifinals, which carried on past midnight on the East Coast because no team wanted to stop playing. And, why should they want to? This is the Big East Tournament! The best five days out of the year (before the NCAA Tournament)!