My older brother Matt: I’m not even sure it would be good for UConn to make a big run in the Big East Tournament.
Me: Are you kidding me? It’s the Big East Tournament.
Matt: If they play three, four, five games back-to-back, they’ll run out of gas for the real tournament. NO ONE REMEMBERS WHO WINS THE BIG EAST TOURNAMENT.
Try telling that to Kemba Walker. Kemba and friends looked like they cared just a little bit as they took the court at Madison Square Garden for the fifth straight day. They showed numerous signs of fatigue. Kemba spent half the game with his hands on his knees, tugging at his shorts, gasping for breath. Jim Calhoun dug deep down his bench to find guys in order to give the starters some rest. But none of that stopped the Huskies from accomplishing a feat that has never been accomplished before, and in my opinion, will never be accomplished again.
UConn, which failed to earn a bye in the Big East, became the first team to ever win five straight games to grasp a conference tournament title. Walker logged 190 minutes, the most ever in a conference tournament. He netted 130 points, most ever in a conference tournament. He made huge plays against Georgetown. He drained the buzzer-beater to send Pittsburgh home, breaking Gary McGhee’s ankles in the process (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGSI0IgM0gM). And last night, in the championship game against Louisville, with his team down one and less than a minute remaining, he drove past two defenders and made an acrobatic, championship-clinching pass to freshman Jeremy Lamb. And he had that same, ear-to-ear smile on his face the whole time.
Kemba’s a New York city kid, and it was pretty evident that he wanted to put on a show in his home town in what was likely the last time he’d play at MSG as a Husky. I admit that his legs probably don’t have enough left in them to bring this team to a National Championship. Deep down, he would probably admit that too. But to be honest with you, I don’t care the slightest bit. Any damage UConn does in the Big Dance is gravy at this point. The show that Kemba put on this week was legendary. The highlights will be shown for years to come.
Maybe the Huskies won’t win the NCAAs. Maybe they will. But either way, nobody will ever be able to take away the accomplishment of winning the nation’s best conference, against all odds. And another thing: Everyone will remember it.