Big East Tourney to Remain at MSG for Multiple Years
The conference announced on Wednesday that its annual Big East Championship Tournament continue to be held at Madison Square Garden for the foreseeable future. The Big East and Madison Square Garden have agreed to a multiyear extension of their contract.
(My main story from today's Big East Media Day)
“Madison Square Garden has been the Big East’s home for 30 years,” new commish Mike Aresco said, “and has produced some of the signature moments in college basketball history. We are happy that our teams will continue to bring the excitement of Big East basketball to the Garden.”
With the defection of Syracuse to the Atlantic Coast Conference after this season, there has been some worry that the ACC may try to hold its championship tournament at MSG, at least periodically.
The Big East’s current contract with MSG doesn’t expire for another four years. There was no word on how many years the new deal will entail.
Of course, UConn won't be able to participate in this year's event. Or will it? While the chances are extremely slim, UConn is holding out a bit of hope that the league presidents change their mind on their decision last March to bar any postseason-ineligible teams from its conference tourney. The presidents meet again in a couple of weeks in Chicago for what would appear to be the Huskies’ last chance. UConn is hoping that, since the players responsible for the poor APR scores are long-gone (and, now, Jim Calhoun is gone, too), that the presidents may reconsider.
It's very unlikely, however.
“It’s possible that it could be discussed,” Aresco said on Wednesday, “but again, UConn hasn’t indicated yet what they want to do. It could be discussed, but I want to state that that’s our policy of our conference at this point.”
Big East Bonds
First-year UConn coach Kevin Ollie brought in a noted sports psychologist a few weeks ago to help the Huskies bond a little better, and by all accounts, it’s worked.
Ironically, UConn sophomore Ryan Boatright also spent a good part of the summer bonding with some of his Big East rivals. He went up against Louisville’s Peyton Siva, the preseason Big East Player of the Year, at Chris Paul’s CP3 Camp, and also teamed with Siva, Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley, Syracuse’s Brandon Triche and Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick at the adidas Nations camp in August.
At CP3, Boatright and Siva went at each other.
“Same thing as a Big East game,” Boatright noted. “Trying to rip each other’s necks off.”
But at adidas, Boatright got a chance to get to know his fellow Big East competitors a lot better. Bonds developed among all the Big East players.
“They’re all great guys,” Siva said. “Ryan Boatright is a funny guy. He’s very energetic, tough as nails as a guard.”
Added Cooley: “When you compete against somebody for four years, you should know a little bit about him. So it’s good to finally get to meet them and develop some friendships.”
The players teamed together on the court and hung out together off it for the week. Precious little of the talk amongst them dwelled on things like the Big East and its rocky future, or about UConn’s postseason ban – though the latter did come up at least once.
“Boatright kind of said an off-hand joke about how there’s not going to be enough bodies (on UConn’s team),” said Cooley, referring to the mass wave of defections from last year’s squad.
More often, it was the conversations were far more light-hearted fare.
“It was more about how are coaches are, some of the funny quotes our coaches would say,” Siva said.
No doubt, Boatright had some prime material for that after playing for Jim Calhoun last season.
Interestingly, Siva, Cooley and Dieng all earned first team all-Big East preseason honors, while Triche was a second team pick. Boatright received no recognition.
“I don’t really care, it is what it is,” he said. “I’m still going to prepare myself to be the best player I can be, and my team to be the best it can be.”
Sports Psychologist a Success
Ollie’s decision to bring in Dr. Joseph Carr, a sports psychologist who has worked with other college and NBA teams, seems to have been a success – even if UConn players were a bit skeptical at first.
“Nobody really felt like doing it but K.O.,” Boatright confessed, adding that the team spent about eight hours a day over a recent weekend in a circle, learning about each other’s lives.
But he feels the team emerged a better team because of it.
“Once we got it going and it was over, we appreciated that he made us do it, because it really helped a lot.”
Freddie Wilson Surprises
New Haven’s Freddie Wilson figures to be a key element for Seton Hall this season as a sophomore.
“Freddie’s probably surprised me more than anybody this year,” Hall coach Kevin Willard said. “He’s coming in great shape. I think (our) summer trip to Spain really helped him. He’s understanding his role a little more. He’s done a great job of embracing what a point guard really needs to be. Last year, I don’t think he really understood what he had to do. Playing behind Jordan (Theodore), he didn’t have a great opportunity to do it. This year, I expect big things from Freddie.”
Wilson averaged 1.8 points in 8.1 minutes of action as a freshman last season. The 6-2 Hillhouse product will play both the point and shooting guard this season.
“He’s going to have to,” Willard said. “He understands what he likes to do offensively. Freddie’s biggest drawback (is) … I think they only play on the offensive side in Connecticut high school basketball. The more he understands the defensive side, the more playing time he’ll get. He’s got a great scorer’s mentality. He’s got a mentality of being in attack mode, which I like.”
DePaul’s Cleveland Melvin, a preseason second team all-Big East pick, committed to UConn while still in prep school but backed out and went to Chicago instead.
His decision was a mixed blessing for the 6-fot-9 junior out of Baltimore. Melvin was the conference’s Rookie of the Year as a freshman and averaged 17.9 points per game last season, making him the top returning scorer in the league. He is a preseason second team all-Big East pick.
Of course, he also missed out on UConn’s national championship run two years ago.
“I’m definitely happy to be in this position I’m at,” Melvin said. “I thought it was the best fit for me. I fit their playing style. I’ve had two successful years. Coming into my junior year, I’m just very excited to get this season started and winning some more games.”