After the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament, the topic on most people’s mind has nothing to do with players or match-ups. Everyone is debating if the Big East (or Big Least) is overrated. We look at both sides.
Of course the Big East is overrated!
The selection committee was crazy to put 11 Big East teams in the field. We have been brain-washed by ESPN into thinking this is a great conference by essentially becoming the Big East Network during the regular season and showing the entire conference tournament on television. The fact Villanova even made the field after losing 10 out of its last 15 games was a joke!
After the second round, 11 teams became seven. Of the four Big East teams to lose, three of them did it in embarrassing fashion. Georgetown was run off the court by a steamed VCU, St. John’s couldn’t handle Gonzaga on the boards and there was Louisville’s upset loss to Morehead State.
Then seven teams became just two after Sunday night. And the only two teams that advanced, Connecticut and Marquette, did so because they got to play other Big East teams! Otherwise, the conference might not have anyone in the Sweet Sixteen. Right now, the entire Big East conference has as many teams in the Sweet Sixteen as the city of Richmond, VA (Richmond, VCU).
Making the conference look even worse, Pitt was the first No. 1 seed out of the Big Dance and Notre Dame looked like the No. 10 seed when facing Florida State instead of a lofty No. 2.
It’s little wonder Charles Barkley called the conference the “itty bitty east.”
You’re crazy, the Big East is still a good conference
During the regular season, the conference’s non-conference record was a solid 34-19 and conference teams went 6-1 against the Top 10.
The problem was Big East teams spent much of the year wearing each other out.
St. John’s lost D.J. Kennedy and Georgetown lost Chris Wright thanks to the physical play of the conference. We understand injuries shouldn’t be an excuse. Injuries can strike any player or any team at any time. But we doubt a team like Butler or Morehead State is beating itself up in conference play as much as any Big East program.
Even when a team is perfectly healthy, the random match-ups of the tournament can also hurt an elite team. St. John’s had a tough draw against a much bigger Gonzaga team that practically built a condo in the paint after establishing ownership. Florida State’s long and athletic defenders disrupted what is normally a smoothly running machine in Notre Dame.
It’s a game of Russian Roulette when it comes to matching up with the right team, or at least one you can adjust to quickly. Besides, this is the NCAA tournament – anything can happen in a single-elimination situation.
And yes, Connecticut and Marquette advanced to the Sweet Sixteen after playing Big East teams. If the selection committee had done its job right, there could be zero Big East teams left in the field. Or there could be four. Syracuse was unlucky it had to face a team familiar with its 2-3 zone so early in the tournament and Cincinnati blew out Missouri before running into the hottest team in the country in Connecticut.
And finally, how come no one is talking about how overrated the Big Ten is? Of the seven teams they got into the tournament field, only two remain. We don’t hear people talking about how Purdue and Michigan State embarrassed themselves.
The Big East conference has become the Miami Heat of college basketball: the 800-pound gorilla everyone loves to throw rocks at. The Big East will be back next year to prove everyone wrong.
The debate will likely rage on the rest of the tournament, especially if Marquette and Connecticut get knocked off before the Final Four. And if you’ve had enough of this, don’t get too comfortable after the last stream of confetti hits the floor on April 4th, as the conversation will certainly be renewed during the 2012 tournament.
So which side do you fall on?