When RJ Cole moved from Howard to UCono after his Sampomore season, he sought to test himself against better competition, move closer to his family and compete on a bigger stage in the Big East Conference.
The chance to play in the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden is a huge opportunity for any male basketball player in the league.
“Anyone playing basketball has dreamed of playing in the garden,” RJ’s father Robert Cole said in a phone interview.
While RJ Cole, a 6-foot-1 redshirt junior point guard from Union, NJ, will make his tournament debut, his school will be making its comeback. The Hawkeyes would play in their first Big East tournament since 2012 when the school rejoined the conference after seven years in the American Athletic Conference. The Huskies did not play in the 2013 Big East tournament because they were ineligible for Playsen play that year.
UConn has a rich tradition in both men’s and women’s basketball. The women’s team – which won its post-tournament tournament on Monday – has won 11 national championships, while the men’s team has won the 1999 title and, more than three times, the most in that span.
The men’s program has completed a three-year turnaround under coach Dan Hurley, whose contract was extended through the 2026-27 season last week. The Huskies are the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament and are projected to make their first NCAA tournament since the 2015–16 season. Creighton is the No. 2 seed and was also speculated to make the NCAA tournament. Seton Hall and Xavier, who lost in the first round to Butler on Wednesday, were entering this all-important week.
The league typically does not produce one-and-done talent, but it has a number of stars this year, including Villanova sophomore forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Seton Hall senior forward Sandro Mamukaleshvili and Yukon Soldore guard James Bounight, a projected NBA lottery pick.
When Ucino played its last Big East tournament nine years ago, there were 16 basketball schools, five more than now. In 2013, the old Big East power schools split with football schools for 5 leagues – Syracuse and Louisville are now in the Atlantic Coast Conference, while West Virginia is in the Big 12. The “new Big East” Butler, redesigned by adding Creighton and Xavier before the 2013–14 season, and its coaches pride themselves in having a basketball-focused league that can compete with conferences that also include football Is included.
Hurley, who played for Seton Hall in the mid-1990s, joked that he played in the “real Big East” before the current incarnation.
The conference, both new and old, has performed well, with its teams winning six national championships since 2000, finishing second only in the ACC’s eight.
Villanova has won two of the last four national titles and senior point guard Colin Gillespie was considered a second-tier favorite for the second time this year before suffering a knee injury last week. Nevertheless, Villanova won her seventh Big East regular-season title in the restructured conference and is the No. 1 seed this week.
Because of the epidemic, Hawkeyes fans will not be able to pack the Garden and support their team the way they did when UConn was originally in the Big East from 1979–2013. Under state health regulations, fans were not allowed to participate in home games this season.
While some conferences are allowing a limited number of fans to their postseason tournaments, the Big East has not sold tickets to the public. The league is giving a limited number of tickets to each team to allow students of student-athletes, coaches and team staff members to participate in the game. The Big East expects about 1,000 viewers every day.
Robert Cole and his wife Zevicia plan to participate in the first game of Yukon on Thursday night against DeColle.
“It’s always an added incentive for support from your UCON base, but the beauty of this is the opportunity to be there as a parent to see her play through this incredible epidemic that she enjoyed so much from watching her play “. The highest level,” said Robert Cole.
The Big East suffered a setback last year when it chose to advance its conference tournament to a second day on March 12, despite the epidemic effect of closing North America and other games. No other big conference took place that day.
After holding two games on March 11, the conference decided to play St. John’s and Crayton the next day with 200 fans per school. At halftime, the game was called and the tournament was canceled.
Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman later called it “a terrible day for us”. He said the Big East consulted the NCAA and city health officials in New York before starting the game.
“We made the best call we’ve ever had,” he said.
Andrew M. of New York Even after cuomo Announced last month While limited attendance at sporting events would be allowed in the state, the Big East did not feel comfortable allowing the public to purchase tickets.
“As New York sports events begin to reopen, we believed it was important to provide access to one of the most prominent events in college sports to those closest to the participants, while ensuring the health of all involved And attempting to protect security, ”Ackerman said. in a statement.
Although they will not be part of a thrill of Ucino fans at the Garden this week, the Cole family will be there, with more room and enjoy the game.
Robert Cole said, “Being in the arena is good enough for me.”