35 Countdown: 1981


Feb. 6, 2014

From Feb. 5 through March 11, BIGEAST.com will count down some of the memorable moments of the BIG EAST Men's Basketball Tournament since its inception in 1980. From March 12-15, Madison Square Garden will host the 35th edition of the tournament.

In what remains the only BIG EAST Championship game to require triple overtime, Syracuse edges Villanova 83-80. A tip-in by Leo Rautins with three seconds left wins it for the Orangemen, who were playing at the Carrier Dome, their brand new home. Rautins, Erich Santifer and Tony “Red” Bruin, a trio of sophomore forwards, all made The All-Tournament Team. Syracuse had to play without standout point guard Marty Headd, who had suffered a broken hand at the end of the regular season. Villanova’s top players were forwards John Pinone and Alex Bradley, and guard Stewart Granger.

The Orangemen finished only 6-8 in regular-season BIG EAST play and were the No. 6 seed in the tournament, but they got hot on their home court. Top seed Boston College was upset by No. 8 seed Providence 67-65 in the quarterfinals. Syracuse reached the final by defeating No. 2 seed Georgetown 67-53 in the semifinals. Villanova needed overtime to knock off Providence 58-49 in the semis.

Because the BIG EAST had not been a conference for the necessary three years in order to earn an automatic NCAA bid, Syracuse had to be selected as an at-large team, but they were not chosen. The Orangemen went to NIT and finished as the tourney runner-up at Madison Square Garden.

Read past moments from the countdown below