Biggest Winners and Losers from 2013 Big East Tournament
The final Big East tournament experience as we know it came to a close this weekend, stirring emotions for college basketball enthusiasts across the country. Memories of Ewing, Carmelo and Kemba became entrenched as part of the annual event's legacy at Madison Square Garden, which has hosted the tourney since 1983.
An unpredictable regular season provided a glimpse of the players and teams to keep a close eye on throughout the competition. Some squads rose to the occasion, giving their tourney dreams a shot in the arm.
Other programs plummeted on the postseason stage, some wrapping up the season for good. With another conference tournament in the books and Selection Sunday tomorrow, let's assess who delivered in Manhattan along with those left scratching their heads in the wake of disappointing displays.
Providence entered the tournament with a head full of steam. The Friars finished the regular season by winning seven of nine games, suddenly landing on the brink of a potential NCAA tournament bid.
Second-year head coach Ed Cooley has plenty to be proud of at Providence following a significantly improved regular season mark. However, the Friars' conference tournament showing left a lot to be desired.
Cincinnati pummeled Providence in the postseason opener, 61-44. The Bearcats ended the regular season slumping, so this appeared to a matchup between teams headed in different directions.
Instead, it served as another example of why it's never smart to assume anything prior to the Big East tournament.
Junior Bryce Cotton, the Big East's leading scorer (19.6 points per game), struggled against Cincy. He connected on just 5-of-15 shots for a pedestrian 12 points.
Winner: Russ Smith
Smith, like many college stars, had an opportunity to use the conference tournament as a personal showcase for NBA scouts. The junior guard led Louisville on a memorable journey by scoring at will against opponents and serving as the Rick Pitino's offensive catalyst.
He tallied 48 total points against Notre Dame and Villanova, shooting 15-of-26 from the floor. Smith is often singled out as a player who tends to hoist up too many shots, but if he is hitting field goals with that efficiency, any coach would go ahead and give him the green light.
Smith is considered a fringe first-round prospect in the 2013 NBA draft. Compensation is drastically different between first rounders and second rounders at the next level, so he did himself some favors for now and the future with a fine tournament run.
His 10-point performance in the Big East title game won't turn heads but he has more opportunities in front of him. Smith is sure to see plenty more of the spotlight as Louisville rolls into the NCAA tourney among the nation's title favorites.
Loser: Oliver Purnell
Chalk up year three of the Oliver Purnell era at DePaul as an unequivocal failure. The Blue Demons struggled to show signs of progress despite having a veteran group of playmakers.
DePaul lost to lowly Rutgers by 19 points in the tournament opener, throwing salt in the wound that was this 2012-13 season. The Blue Demons actually defeated Rutgers in February, but simply couldn't find a way to compete with the struggling Scarlet Knights this time around, ending up 2-17 against conference opponents this season.
When Purnell was hired away from Clemson after three-consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, expectations around DePaul's basketball program instantly elevated. Three seasons later, he's running out of options on the court and reasons to keep his contract.
Syracuse slumped into the Big East tournament. The Orange had dropped seven of 12 contests since Jan. 26, when the team stood tall at 18-1.
As the defeats stacked up, so did the doubters.
Many (myself included) considered Syracuse a prime candidate to go one-and-done in the tourney. What a difference a few days can make.
Syracuse regained a sizable amount of it's early season clout with a surprising run to an appearance in the conference title game, exorcising some regular-season demons along the way. The Orange allowed a sizable lead to slip away against Louisville, but it's clear Jim Boeheim's squad is playing much better basketball than it during the final stretch of the regular season.
After suffering a pair of embarrassing losses to Georgetown, the Orange gained some redemption with an overtime victory against the Hoyas in the tournament semifinals. Syracuse stopped Orange-killer Otto Porter in his tracks, limiting the Big East Player of the Year to 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting.
Porter also had a costly turnover late in the game. The Orange made the most of a final Big East Tournament run, milking every game it possibly could before it transitions to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Syracuse seems to have at least some semblance of its swagger back. Now we'll see how far it carries the team in the NCAA tourney.
Loser: D'Angelo Harrison
The Red Storm looked like an up-and-coming team midway through the conference campaign, but a once-promising Big East season came to a crashing close. Harrison earns this "loser" distinction without even stepping on the court at Madison Square Garden.
Harrison, a sophomore guard, ranked third among the conference's leading scorers when he was suspended by St. John's on March 1 for the remainder of the season. Without Harrison, the squad suffered four-straight losses, including a 66-53 defeat versus Villanova in its Big East tournament opener.
He cost himself a shot to showcase his skills in front of a national audience and ultimately doomed the Red Storm.
Winner: Fans of Big East Basketball History
Whether you were watching SportsCenter or reading Bleacher Report, Big East basketball tournament memories saturated the sports media market throughout the week. As an incredible chapter closed in American hoops, it gave us an excuse to look back at memory lane and some of the milestones that fill the timeline along the way.
Patrick's Ewing's dynastic run at Georgetown. Kemba Walker's remarkable 2011 postseason tour de force. The six-overtime thriller between Syracuse and Connecticut. Ray Allen versus Allen Iverson in the 1996 title game.
Even all the way back to the moment St. John's forward Walter Berry blocked the game-winning shot attempt of Syracuse star Pearl Washington in the '86 final. Each moment served as a building block toward the Big East tournament as we know it today.
With a massive conference overhaul quickly approaching on the horizon, memories are now all that remains from three decades of basketball drama.