Question #168: What’s your favorite conference tournament?
I love this time of year. Yes, the NCAA tournament is awesome but the conference tournaments are almost as exciting, if only because it’s wall-to-wall basketball for an entire week with everyone from the best of the best to the also-rans and the hanging-on hopefuls all playing nonstop.
I know everyone around here loves the Big East tournament and I enjoy it too – even though this whole “all 16 teams get to play” idea they’re doing this year is stupid – but for me, nothing matches the ACC. I’ve always loved watching Duke and North Carolina get into it, and every year there’s someone – Clemson or NC State or Maryland – who gets involved and makes a run.
I’m also a big fan of the smaller tourneys. I remember watching Valparaiso (Bryce Drew and his dad, the coach, Homer) playing in their tourney before they made their famous charge in the NCAAs. The intensity of the small-conference semis and finals is fantastic and I’m not ashamed to admit I enjoy the Missouri Valley, MAC and America East tourneys almost as much as the big guys.
Still, nothing touches the ACC. As big as the Big East is this year – and there’s no denying it’s a banner year for the conference with so many teams in the top 25 – I’ll be locked in on the ACC starting tomorrow. It’s the best.
What’s your fave tourney? And what’s your favorite conference tourney memory?
Tough one for me, Sam. I’ve been up to my eyeballs in hockey at this time of year for most of my career, and haven’t had the luxury of sitting back on the couch and watching March Madness very often.
Obviously, I have a fondness for the Big East—not only being a New Yorker, but also knowing so many kids who play in the conference, or are still playing in the conference, kids like Providence’s Geoff McDermott, Mookie Jones (out injured for Syracuse), West Virginia’s Kevin Jones, Rutgers’ Mike Coburn.
The times I have had time, I think it’s very fair to say that the ACC tournament is more passionate. It’s older, more established and less scattered in terms of geographical location of the schools. I think you get a lot more students and real diehards for the ACC, whereas the Big East attracts the typical New York basketball fan—one with few if any allegiance, just a love of college hoops.
Also, the tournament’s meaning is diminished, and not just at the bottom, where every team is given a shot. This year we know that six or seven Big East teams are going to the Final 64 no matter what happens at MSG this week, unless somebody like Providence can come out of nowhere and win the Big East and get an automatic bid that might otherwise not be coming. For UConn and Pitt and Syracuse and Louisville, I don’t think the title is as crucial.
That said, with all the power in the conference now, the Big East championship surely would be an accomplishment that should be cherished.