For 30 years the Big East Tournament grew into a week-long spectacle on 33rd Street that became a commercial and competitive success. It featured the best basketball conference for many of those years and winning the Big East Tournament championship was a prize that said you can’t become the national champion until you become king of the neighborhood.

But let’s face it. In terms of having much implication for the NCAA Tournament, the Big East was often playing with house money. You needed both hands in most years to count the number of teams that were locks to make “The Dance” even before the Big East Tournament began.

For perennially ranked teams such as Louisville, Connecticut, West Virginia, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh, only their seeding was affected by how they played in the conference tournament. But that’s all changed now and that’s why the new Big East Tournament figures to be as thrilling as any once March rolls around. Certainly, there will be more on the line.

Desperation makes for more intense competition and that’s what most of the teams will be feeling when tournament play begins at the Garden on March 12. There is plenty of basketball left in the regular season, enough for a team such as St. John’s to confirm its credentials before postseason play begins. But as of now, only sixth-ranked Villanova and No.18 Creighton are locks for the NCAA Tournament. Everyone else must still earn its way in by winning the conference tournament outright or at least advancing to the semifinals or finals.

Yes, Syracuse and Jim Boeheim will be missed, along with Rick Pitino and his defending national-champion Louisville. It won’t seem like a Big East Tournament without UConn in the building. And you knew Cincinnati was becoming a national power under the guidance of their excellent coach Mick Cronin.

But every game in the new Big East Tournament will mean something this year, every single game will offer a true illustration of “Survive and Advance.”

One big drawback is there is only one day session scheduled, March 13. Area bar owners are bummed a bit over the limited chance of daytime business, but the night games should carry national and certainly regional interest.

Behind Villanova (22-3, 11-2 before Tuesday’s game against Providence) and Creighton (21-4, 11-2) at least five teams will need to play well in the Big East Tournament to reach March Madness. Xavier (17-8 and 7-5 in the Big East as of Wednesday) has quality wins over Tennessee, Cincinnati and Wake Forest. Providence (17-9, 7-6) had lost three of its last four heading into its home game against Villanova, while Georgetown (15-10, 6-7) is falling out of favor after losing to the Red Storm 82-60 on Sunday at the Garden.

Marquette and St. John’s are the hottest teams at the moment. The Golden Eagles (15-10, 7-5) have won three straight, since losing to St. John’s on Feb. 1 at the Garden, while the Red Storm (17-9, 7-6) had won five straight games and eight of its last nine entering Tuesday’s game against Butler (12-13, 2-11) at the Garden.