The basketball conference that we will soon be calling the “Old Big East” had two teams in the NCAA Final Four, and but for the loss of Syracuse in the national semifinals, it would have had both teams in the championship. I was an avid fan of the Big East: I preferred to watchits games rather than marquee matchups between higher-rated teams, even after I had become generally bored with television sports.
There was something relentlessly blue-collar about the teams and their coaches, a rough-and-ready working out of the play. There never was a contest that seemed out of reach for any team, and one could anticipate that even the lowest on the rung would at least make a game of it. With all the upsets, all the thwarting of the experts’ picks, there was a sense of rebellious destiny that kept us young. Location had something to do with it, as well. As a confirmed urbanite, I loved the grittiness of their “city” teams.