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The Last Hurrah at MSG

Mar 12, 2013, 2:38 PM EDT

What had long been speculated became official this morning: Notre Dame will play in the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

This is it. In every practical sense, today marks the start of the final BIG EAST tournament.

Sure, the Catholic 7/new BIG EAST will continue the tradition, but it won’t be the same. Not without Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Not without Notre Dame and Louisville.

It’s like that final scene in The Sandlot, where Smalls talks about everyone moving away. The park where he and Squints, Yeah Yeah, Ham Porter, Benny The Jet and the rest of the gang spent summer after summer was still there, but slowly, it became part of the past – a fond memory to look back on, but never quite the same.

For the BIG EAST, that ball field is Madison Square Garden.

It’s a venue that has hosted everything from national political conventions and boxing matches to track meets and sold-out concerts, not to mention the thousands of basketball and hockey games that the Knicks, Rangers and a host of other teams have played at the storied stage in midtown Manhattan.


Athletes, coaches, musicians – essentially anyone who plays or performs at MSG reaches the floor level through the enormous freight elevator.

The Concert for New York City, the NBA Draft, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus – the list goes on, and on, and on. I suppose that’s why they call it The World’s Most Famous Arena.

As thousands have said, and several others have written (including Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel and ESPN’s Dana O’Neil), there’s something special about the BIG EAST tournament at The Garden.

Year in and year out, five consecutive days of basketball, countless exciting contests and incredible late-game heroics.

The distinguished blue and orange court, the creak of the famous freight elevator, and the aroma of popcorn and beer – albeit stale – among the great sights, sounds and smells of an arena that has forgotten more memorable moments than any of us have ever even seen.

Truthfully, leaving MSG behind might not be a bad thing for Notre Dame. The Irish are 56-47 all-time in the arena, but just 1-4 in their last five trips. Anyone who’s been down on the court can tell you it just feels unlike any other venue. The lighting is different, and The Garden rims haven’t always been kind to the blue & gold.

There’s no doubt Notre Dame will return to the old arena near 33rd and 8th. It may be next year, perhaps the year after. But never again, will it do so for the BIG EAST tournament.

I guess that’s some added incentive to make a run at Saturday night.

It all starts tomorrow at 9:00 pm ET on ESPN2 against the winner of Tuesday’s DePaul/Rutgers game.

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