It was sophomore Josh Wright who clinched the title win, making four free throws in the final 17 seconds.
But it was still McNamara's tournament. Syracuse became the lowest-seeded team to win the Big East tournament - the Orange came in at No. 9 - and the third school to repeat, joining Georgetown in 1985 and Connecticut in 1999. The Orange (23-11) arrived in New York this week with its chances of claiming an at-large NCAA tournament berth as on the bubble as a team can get. They are leaving with an automatic bid and a folk hero.
McNamara, who was as obvious an MVP selection as any tournament has ever had, won the first-round game against Cincinnati with a 3-pointer with less than a second to play. He tied the quarterfinal game against top-ranked Connecticut with 5 seconds left in regulation and the Orange won in overtime.
In the semifinal win over No. 23 Georgetown, he hit a late 3 to bring the Orange within one, then made the pass on the winning basket and forced a turnover on the Hoyas' final possession. In the championship game win over Pittsburgh (24-7), he had 14 points and six assists. He had three 3-pointers, giving him a tournament-record 16.
The crowd of 19,594 at Madison Square Garden was chanting his name throughout the game, and many more than that will claim over the years they were in the building to see some part of what will become known as "McNamara's Tournament." It was Syracuse's fifth Big East tournament title, one behind Georgetown and Connecticut for the most.
The Panthers also won three games to get to the title game for the fifth time in six years. Pittsburgh's only championship was in 2003. None of the first three teams to win three games to get to the title game ever won the championship. Now Syracuse has.
Carl Krauser had 16 points and five assists for the Panthers, while Aaron Gray had 14 points and 12 rebounds and Antonio Graves added 14 points. Syracuse took a 34-25 halftime lead as the Panthers struggled against the Orange's 2-3 zone.
Pittsburgh shot 27.6 percent in the first half (8-for-29) and despite more success inside in the second half, only managed to go 20-for-60 for the game, well off their 45.6 mark for the season. The inside success keyed a 14-3 run that got the Panthers the lead at 48-47 with 8:34 to play.
McNamara's last 3-pointer of the game ended a 4 1/2-minute field goal drought for the Orange and gave them the lead for good at 50-48 with 8:18 to go.
Graves made two free throws with 18 seconds left to bring Pitt within 61-58, but converted both ends of a 1-and-1 a second later to make it a five-point lead.
Krauser hit a 3-pointer with 7.7 seconds left to get the Panthers within one possession again, but Wright again converted a 1-and-1 for the final margin.
Wright's points were his only ones of the game and the only points Syracuse got from a nonstarter.