The 2006 Big East Basketball tournament is best remembered for Syracuse's improbable title run as a 9 seed. I was in New York City that week and all I remember is Gerry McNamara going absolutely crazy from the 3 point line. It seemed like every night, in my drunken haze, I would watch that annoying little kid hit a buzzer beater or a crazy shot that advanced his team to the next round.
In the first game they played, Devan Downey of Cincinnati stole an inbounds pass with 10 seconds left and was fouled. He made 1 of 2 free throws to put the Bearcats up by 2 with under 10 seconds to play. However, with a half second left Gerry McNamara made a RUNNING ONE HAND THREE POINTER to secure the victory. Final Score? 74-73.
'Cuse advanced to play #1 seeded Connecticut in the next game and the momentum carried over. They got up big but let the Huskies take their first lead with 30 seconds left in the game. McNamara was the hero once again, hitting a 30 foot 3 pointer that sent the game into overtime. The Orange went on to win in overtime, 86-84. McNamara finished that game with 13 assists.
They faced another good team, Georgetown, in the semifinals and the question and their attempt to become the first team to ever win a Big East tournament after playing on the first day became official. It didn't look good at the half. The Hoyas built a 15 point lead, and the Orange appeared to have run out of gas. Their miracle worker was sidelined with a groin injury for about 10 minutes in the second half and the streak looked to be coming to an end.
In a surprise bigger than Hulk Hogan body slamming Andre The Giant in Wrestlemania 3, McNamara came off the bench to check in with about 10 minutes left. He drained 5 three pointers, including one with less than a minute left to bring the Orange within 4. Syracuse then knocked away a Georgetown inbounds pass and McNamara threw the ball down the court to Eric Devendorf for an easy layup to take the lead with 1 second left. Orange win again, 58-57.
After winning 3 straight games by either 1 point or in overtime, Syracuse had a fairly easy time in the Championship with Pittsburgh and they became the highest seed to ever win a Big East Tournament title. The Orange had finished just 7-9 in conference that year, and were headed for the CBI, but they punched their ticket to the Big Dance.
My point here is that it's not called March Madness for nothing. Oklahoma State is injured, tired and lean - but they'll be an 8.5 favorite tonight against Texas Tech for a shot against Missouri. Perhaps the Pawnee Pistol can go on a run similar to McNamara and carry his team to an improbable Big 12 Tournament title.
Stranger things have happened.