Big East has struggled in Big Dance
Published: Thursday, March 3, 2011
Updated: Thursday, March 3, 2011 22:03
At last look, the Big East Conference and its basketball teams were good at basketball – really good.
Currently, eight Big East teams are in the top 25, while two others teams from the league are in the receiving votes category.
Simply put, no other conference in the nation can boast those types of numbers.
For comparison's sake, the SEC, ACC and Big 12 Conferences have a combined nine teams in the top 25.
As powerful as the Big East has been over the last five years or so during the regular season, the numbers have not stacked up well in the NCAA Tournament.
Big East teams Syracuse and Connecticut won the national championship in back-to-back years in 2003 and 2004. Since then, no Big East team has even made it to the title game in the "modern era" of the conference.
The modern era would be considered the years 2005 and beyond after the loss of teams to the ACC and the addition of Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette and South Florida.
This trend brings to mind two questions .
Has the modern era and its brutal 18-game conference slate, along with one of the toughest conference tournaments in the nation, left Big East teams hurting come March Madness?
In some cases, I would have to agree with this, because night in and night out, the Big East features some of the toughest matchups around.
If a team takes one game too lightly or is not having its best night, it will lose.
On any given night, the best team in the Big East could lose to a bottom feeder.
With conference play stretching from mid-December to early March, one would have to believe the physical play on a nightly basis would wear a team down.
In addition, the Big East Tournament may well be one of the toughest conference tournaments to win, while also adding to amount of wear-and-tear to be faced.
Although there have been exceptions, teams that have made deep runs in the Big East Tournament have shown some susceptibility to early round losses in the NCAA Tournament.
Seven of the 10 teams that have made the Big East Tournament championship game in the modern era have lost in the Sweet 16 or earlier, with four of those early exits coming in either the first or second round of the NCAA Tournament.
One could argue an appearance in the Big East title game does not guarantee a high seed, but only on one occasion has a team that made the final been seeded lower than fourth.
That occurrence came in 2006 when both Syracuse and Pittsburgh were No. 5 seeds.
Since then, Big East Tournament championship game teams have had an average seed of 2.5.
Can the Big East turn the trend around this season by having a team win the national title or at least make the championship game?
Unfortunately, the Big East will have a representative or a winner of the national title this season even in a season with no clear dominant team.
Each of the league's top teams has their deficiencies, whether it's Pitt's lack of a top scorer, Notre Dame's limitations in the post or a Louisville team that struggles to show up every night.
Having said that, it wouldn't surprise me if the Panthers were to finally get over the hump and make a deep postseason run or if the Fighting Irish truly do have the luck of the Irish.
Another team that should be watched closely is St. John's come tournament time.
The Red Storm have shown an ability to take down top teams this season, and if their draw works well, they could be a force to be reckoned with in the NCAA Tournament.