The MECCA of Basketball. Madison Square Garden.
It hosts one of my favorite sporting events every single year, and that sporting event starts today.
Marquette is taking on Georgetown in the first round of the Big East Tournament.
This year, my emotions going in are some combination of relief and nostalgia.
The relief comes from the fact that we weren’t able to have conference tournaments last year due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today represents another small step back toward normalcy.
The nostalgia, however, has hit me every year since 2013.
That’s when the “old Big East” was driven apart.
Traditional basketball powerhouses like UCONN, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Louisville left the Big East high and dry for lucrative football contracts elsewhere.
I miss the times when the Big East was unequivocally the best basketball conference in the country.
I miss the rivalries: Marquette vs. Louisville. Syracuse vs. Georgetown. Syracuse vs. UCONN. Syracuse vs…well…everybody.
I miss the 6 overtime games. Gerry McNamara in 2006. Kardiac Kemba at the buzzer.
Celebs sitting courtside on Friday night at The Garden because it was THE hottest ticket in town.
UCONN is back this year.
Maybe, soon, the estranged member schools will recognize how far they’ve gone astray, and venture home like prodigal sons.
Until then, early March will always bring me feelings of longing for a better moment in time.