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Welcome to New York

While Eric and Adam are enjoying balmy Tampa - that noted ACC mecca - I am in cold and windy New York City. Even though I prefer the sun and warmth, there is nowhere I'd rather be this week. The Big East folk often talk about how theirs is the best conference tournament - because it is played here, in Madison Square Garden - and I have to agree. The Garden might not be new or shiny or state-of-the-art, but the atmosphere is absolutely electric.

This is the 25th season that the Big East tournament has been held in the Garden, and I think there's something nice about playing the tournament at the same site every year. (Especially since it's New York.) The first three were played in different cities (Providence, Syracuse and Hartford), but as commissioner Mike Tranghese said last night at the awards ceremony, Dave Gavitt's goal always was to take the event to New York. Once Patrick Ewing decided to go to Georgetown, and Chris Mullin went to St. John's, and Ed Pinckney headed to Villanova--that's when the Big East knew that it was ready for the Garden, Tranghese said.

Last night was the awards ceremony and team dinner, which kicks off the week. The 12 teams converge on a ballroom inside the Grand Hyatt; the players get dressed up in coats and ties, which for the Georgetown guys isn't a big deal - they wear suits to and from every game.

Only the winners and their coaches attend the awards ceremony, which is held an hour before the dinner. When John Thompson III told Jeff Green at practice on Tuesday that he was named the Big East player of the year, Green's initial reaction was, "Does this mean we have to leave [his hotel] early?" Yes, Jeff. And it means you have to give a speech!

Each winner, after accepting his enormous trophy (some sort of golden ball that is affixed to a tiered wooden base) and posing for a picture with Tranghese, steps to the microphone to say a few words. It's like a basketball-version of the Oscars, though mercifully much shorter; the players just thank as many people as they can think of.

Pittsburgh's Aaron Gray, the scholar-athlete award winner, thanked everyone from Aeropostale (one of the league sponsors) to his mom and dad, Coach Jamie Dixon, his athletic advisor, his university chancellor, his academic advisor.

Herndon's own Scottie Reynolds, the rookie of the year, was very gracious and sweet, saying that even though this was an individual award, it was really an award for Villanova basketball. He thanked his teammates "basically just for putting up with me."

As for Green, he was quick and to the point. He thanked Thompson for giving him the opportunity to play in the style of offense they play, his family, and his teammates "for making me look good." Later he said that he planned on giving his trophy to Thompson, so the coach could put it next to his rookie of the year trophy. (That one is displayed in the lounge inside the basketball offices.)

Tranghese also congratulated Georgetown on winning the regular season championship, and asked Thompson, "Might this get dad off your back a little bit?" Thompson quickly shook his head no.

The games begin today:
No. 8 DePaul vs. No. 9 Villanova, noon
No. 5 Syracuse vs. No. 12 Connecticut, 2 p.m.
No. 7 West Virginia vs. No. 10 Providence, 7 p.m.
No. 6 Marquette vs. No. 11 St. John's, 9 p.m.

The only team that would surprise me if it won is St. John's; I think the rest of the games could go either way. Georgetown plays the winner of the first game tomorrow at noon.

Thoughts on the Big East tournament? Is there anyone out there who has been to both the ACC and Big East tournaments and can compare the two events?

By Camille Powell  |  March 7, 2007; 10:34 AM ET
Categories:  College Basketball  
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