Weekend Encore: What We Learned

The past 4 days in sports were pretty amazing. Other than NCAA Championship Week Culminating, there was also NFL labor issues, as well as great NBA games which included the Lakers visiting the Heat and then the Lakers visiting the Mavericks 2 days later.

While the Lakers vs. Heat match-up was just another March regular season game to many, there were many underlying story lines. The Heat, on a 5 game winning streak and taking much criticism from the media, were in a must win situation. Win and get back the confidence they know they possess, or lose to the red-hot Lakers and risk becoming a pretender as opposed to a contender. The game went back and forth, never one team taking the stranglehold of the lead and dominating the game.  In the end, the Heat were finally able to close out a game and beat the defending champion Lakers, 94-88.  So what did we learn from this game, well the Heat are a good team. They will contend for the East crown and can close out games. I still don’t think they can beat the Bulls or the Celtics in the playoffs, but i know for sure they will make for a great second round match-up. 2 days later, the Lakers visited the Mavericks, not doing what they could to shake any South Beach hangover they might have had, the Lakers had a true statement win. Beating the Mavericks in their own house, to pull closer to that all important 2 seed in the NBA playoffs.

In what was probably the biggest sports story of last weekend, the Big East Tournament. Not just the best conference in the country, but the most exciting stretch of days in recent memory. 2 years ago we were treated to a 6OT thriller in the QUARTERFINALS with Syracuse and Uconn squaring off. That year the Big East got 9 teams into the NCAA tourney, a record. This year the Big East is projected 11 teams. Coming into the tournament Notre Dame and Pitt both had double-byes and were favorites to win the tournament in order to secure top seeds in the NCAA Tournament. But nobody outside of Hartford, Ct saw what was coming. Kemba Walker would put on one of the most impressive runs in conference tournament history, setting a Big East tourney record scoring 130 points, knocking off DePaul, Georgetown, Pitt, Syracuse, and finally Louisville to capture the Big East Tournament title. In the aftermath, Connecticut, which had been ranked #19 in the previous polls, was able to steal a #3 ranking in the West region.  Kemba Walker, who was on the roster in 2009 during the 6OT loss to Syracuse, was determined to lead his team to the title and opened many peoples eyes. Walker is no stranger to the limelight, he hit many go ahead shots during the season and continued to come up in the clutch, beating Texas on the road, knocking off Villanova at home, and then in his best Jordan impression, shook off a defender and hit the game winning shot in front of a raucus crowd as MSG. How far will Uconn go in the tournament? As far as Kemba Walker and the supporting cast take them. They played exceptional in the Big East tournament, so the only question is, can they make another 5 game run to get to the national championship game, because if they do, Kemba Walker is the guy you want on your team if you need one win, because as we saw in the Big East tourney, he can get it done.

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