Opinion: What’s the big deal about the Big East?

Villanova was not only representative from the Big East to take a tumble thus far during March Madness. Only two of the 11 squads reached the Sweet Sixteen. (John Powell)

Somewhere along the way I heard this was supposed to be the year of the Big East. Yes they had 11 teams reach the dance. But there are only two stragglers remaining: UConn and Marquette. It seems this is the year of the Mountain West, the CAA, the A10 and the Horizon League.

Unfortunately I fell for the hype. I listened to those “experts” praise the Big East over the past few months, and it showed in my bracket, which currently ranks in the 20th percentile in the ESPN Tournament Challenge.

Even worse, I am sitting in 15th out of 23 in the student media pool.

I had three Big East squads in my Final Four: Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Syracuse. For those of you who haven’t been following the Big Dance closely, not one of those teams is still alive. Not one.

No. 1 seed Pittsburgh fell to perennial Cinderella Butler out of the Horizon League. Butler is just one year removed from reaching the National Championship game and falling to Duke by just two points–and even had a chance to win at the buzzer. Butler has reached the Sweet Sixteen four times in the past decade, so I can’t be too surprised by the Panthers’ loss.

No. 2 seed Notre Dame stumbled in their second game to the 10th seeded Florida State Seminoles. The Noles’ star player, Chris Singleton, played limited minutes because of an injury he sustained late in the season and was basically a non-factor. Yet, they won by 14 points in what was a blowout from the opening tip.

No. 3 seed Syracuse fell to one of their own–Marquette. Did I mention Marquette was a bubble team who snuck in to the tournament as an 11 seed? Well, in a matchup of two Big East teams I guess one has to win. Of course it would be one of my Final Four teams that had to fall. But I digress.

What’s next. Oh yes, No. 4 seed Louisville. Well, I may not have had them in the Final Four, but I sure did have them in my Elite Eight. Naturally, they dropped their opening game to No. 13 seed Morehead State. Let me say this one more time in case you didn’t catch that. Louisville–just a few days after reaching the finals in the Big East tournament–dropped their opening game to No. 13 seed Morehead State. Yes I said Morehead State. Enough said.

That brings me to No. 6 seed St. John’s. What did they do you ask? Well they lost in the first round of course to No. 11 seed Gonzaga out of the West Coast Conference. Gonzaga is a highly represented mid-major program, but the Big East is unstoppable, right? I guess not. And did I mention they were also in my Elite Eight? But that should not come as a surprise either.

Is anybody noticing a trend? Well it doesn’t end there.

No. 6 seed Georgetown also took a tumble in their first game to the CAA’s own VCU, essentially the last at-large team granted access to the tournament. Sporting an “us-against-the-world attitude” after receiving a great deal of criticism for even getting into the madness, the Rams destroyed the Hoyas. Did I pick this upset? Don’t even bother asking that question.

But the Rams weren’t done there. They went on to take down the third-seeded Purdue Biolermakers in blowout fashion to reach the Sweet Sixteen. Clearly it’s not all about the “power conferences” in college basketball.

If only college football and the pathetic BCS would take notice of this–but that is a whole new can of worms which I don’t have time to delve into presently.

I’m sure we are all still in a state of shock after the beat-down handed to our eighth-seeded George Mason Patriots by those top-seeded Buckeyes of Ohio State. But let’s not forget what Mason did to get there. In their first game–just like fellow CAA member, VCU–the Patriots eliminated a Big East squad from the tournament, No. 9 seed Villanova, in an epic comeback.

For those who are shaky with math, yes, the CAA was 2-0 against the Big East.

As Big East squads collapse left and right, the Mountain West retains both of its teams in the dance–BYU and San Diego State. No big surprise there as they are two and three seeds respectively and took care of business like teams deserving of a high seed.

Perhaps the biggest shocker of the tournament is that the city of Richmond has two of the 16 teams left dancing. Joining VCU is No. 12 seed Richmond, who has the pleasure of facing top-seeded Kansas next. If only the Jayhawks were members of the Big East, maybe Richmond would be favored in the contest.

By the way, alongside Kansas in their region are Florida State, VCU and Richmond–11, 12 and 13 seeds respectively. Who predicted that? If you did predict that, you’re lying.

The only Final Four team I have remaining is Duke, who I picked to win it all. Based on the success of my bracket thus far, Duke will fall to Arizona in the Sweet Sixteen. Or, maybe they will go on to cut down the nets in Houston and I will actually get something right. In that case, my stellar bracket may climb into the 30th percentile on ESPN. Yes, I have lofty goals.

Oh boy has the madness arrived.

--This is an opinion piece


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