NCAA Opening Weekend: Reports of the BIG EAST's Overrated-ness Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

The NCAA tournament is almost universally awesome, but there is one thing that I don't like about it. All the national media types who don't watch college basketball all year parachute in for the tournament, then immediately make sweeping proclamations about things based on a handful of games. Such as:

OH MY GOD THE BIG EAST WAS OVERRATED THEY SUCK CONFERENCES X Y AND Z ARE ALL BETTER JUST LOOK AT THESE RESULTS!!!!!

Uhhhhh, yeah. About that. Is anyone calling the Big 12 overrated because Kansas lost and Texas went all the way from ranked #1 in January to out in the first round? What about when Vanderbilt was beaten by Murray State in round one? Does that mean the SEC is overrated? And those two super-awesome Pac-10 teams that knocked off Marquette and Louisville? Well congratulations Pac-10, your two best teams beat the 6th and 7th teams from the BIG EAST. Would you like a medal or something?

 

Look, there's no defending Georgetown, who stunk out the Dunk so badly on Thursday that hazmat crews are still trying to get rid of the smell. And George Clooney Jay Wright picked a strange time for his "teaching point", killing what little momentum Villanova was bringing into the tournament in the first place. But there are plenty of counterarguments:

 

-- BIG EAST teams were mostly overseeded. Villanova should have been at least a 3 seed. Georgetown should have been a 4 or a 5. Marquette should have been in an 8/9 game. And Notre Dame.. that was just insane giving them a 6 seed. All of those teams were worthy of being in the tournament, but blame the tournament selection committee for their poor seeding, not the teams or the conference. Then because of those screwups, a lot of other teams just plain got shafted. San Diego State had an RPI of 18 in a perfectly respectable Mountain West conference, and they got an 11 seed. In fact they may not have made it in at all if they didn't win their conference tournament. BYU was a 7 seed and they're ranked in the top 20. Missouri fell all the way to a 10 seed because of one bad loss to Nebraska. The committee did a bad job slotting teams this year and it changed countless matchups in ways we'll never know.

-- Along those same lines, it's not as much about your seed as it is about the matchups. Villanova has no size and St. Mary's just pounded on them with Omar Samhan. Washington overcame Marquette with speed and depth. (Buzz Williams basically went about six deep in that game.) Louisville doesn't defend the perimeter very well and California shot the lights out. Even Kansas had a matchup problem. Bill Self admitted he couldn't press Northern Iowa on Saturday because the Jayhawks didn't want to keep putting them on the free throw line - the Panthers shot over 75% as a team during the season.

-- It's not a best-of-seven, it's a one-game playoff. Upsets are going to happen. Especially in this day and age, with three-point shooting, fewer scholarships, and more experienced mid-major teams with coaches that are better at, you know, coaching than their big-school counterparts. I'm looking at you, Rick Barnes.

-- Everyone is thrown off by how spectacularly successful the BIG EAST was last year, when they had half of the final eight teams. Here are the tournament results for every year since the conference went to 16 teams:

2006 - 8 teams in tournament, 5 in round two, 4 in Sweet 16, 2 in Elite 8
2007 - 6 teams in tournament, 3 in round two, 2 in Sweet 16, 1 in Elite 8
2008 - 7 teams in tournament, 7 in round two, 3 in Sweet 16, 1 in Elite 8
2009 - 7 teams in tournament, 6 in round two, 5 in Sweet 16, 4 in Elite 8
2010 - 8 teams in tournament, 4 in round two, 2 in Sweet 16

FIVE YEAR AVERAGE - 7 teams in tournament, 5 in round two, 3 in Sweet 16.

 

A little off from the average, but then again, it's been a long time since the Sweet 16 was so diverse. The 16 teams left are from 11 different leagues, which might be the most ever. (I was only able to figure it out to about the mid-90s before I got confused on which teams were in which leagues, and no other year got to 11.) This thing is wide open.

So there you have it. I'd say the BIG EAST looks just about as good as it normally does. And if you still disagree, then why don't you go ask why the ACC had six teams start the tournament and now they only have Duke left. Hmmmmmm?

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