When it comes to conference tournament play, some programs always seem to rise to the occasion. But without the right leader on the sideline and on the court, your team aura can only take you so far in a tourney that is stacked with contenders like the Big East. Yesterday, UConn took its second step towards being that team. You know, a squad that could steal the Big East Tournament, as they have both the sideline leader (Jim Calhoun) and floor general (Kemba Walker) to make a serious run at what has once again become “the tournament of all tournaments” during Championship Week.
Calhoun is no stranger to this, and has a knack for getting his kids ready at just the right time. Bottom line, he’s a big-game coach with the second longest tenure in this powerhouse conference. Yesterday’s outright beat down of Georgetown is a great example of his ability to game plan and motivate.
Then there is the on-court floor general in Walker. The player that should have been the Big East Player of Year (no disrespect to Ben Hansbrough) now appears to be playing with a chip on his shoulder as well. As I sat in my seat watching him score 28 points and control the game against the Hoyas, it took my mind back to 2006 when Gerry McNamara led Syracuse on a shocking and heart stopping run to the Big East tournament championship. Sure, GMac shot the heck out of the basketball, but he raised the level of everyone around him and eventually had the entire Garden in Orange delirium. That is what the great leaders find a way to do, and that is what Kemba Walker appears to be doing as UConn roles into today’s game against Pitt at noon.
Pittsburgh is led by a backcourt featuring New Jersey native, Ashton Gibbs and senior Brad Wanamaker will be tasked with slowing Walker today. During their previous matchup in December, Walker burned the Panthers for 31 points and five steals, but it was Pitt who was victorious on their home court.
Today is different. And on a neutral and hallowed ground, it will be the team that raises its level as one unit that will continue to march on towards the title. Walker and UConn seem to have that very look necessary to keep playing. As we have learned in March, anything is possible.
What do you think? Does UConn have a shot at winning the Big East tourney?
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