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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Big East Had Many Good Teams but No Great Teams

It was widely acknowledged that college basketball was down this year. There was one bonafide superstar — The Jimmer — and you could possibly argue that the heroics of Kemba Walker were in a similar class. Relatedly, Duke, Ohio State, and Kansas were all very good, but few would argue they were great teams. Freshman like Harrison Barnes and Jared Sullinger got plenty of hype, but again, there weren’t many driving forces in college basketball this year. In my estimation, the one consistent theme was that the Big East seemed to be the top conference in the country.

Throughout the season, 7-8 Big East teams found themselves in the Top 25 rankings. Pitt, Syracuse, UConn and Notre Dame got high up on the charts while West Virginia, St. John’s, Louisville, Georgetown, and Villanova all filled up Top 25 spots as well. Come tournament time, a record 11 teams from their conference made the Big Dance.

Sending 11 teams to the tourney should be an indication that the Big East was the best, but it is somewhat misleading.

Nine of the aforementioned 11 Big East teams lost in the first weekend of the tournament with only UConn and Marquette advancing. It must be noted that two games were between Big East teams — Syracuse/Marquette and UConn/Cincinnati — so the best they could have done was send eight of their 11 teams to the Sweet 16, but only having two go is a disappointment.

The teams that really let the conference down were Georgetown and St. John’s getting blown out in the first round and Notre Dame getting blasted in the second round. And of course Butler’s upset over Pitt took out the conference’s top team, but it was something we predicted back in February.

I don’t think the poor performance in the tournament ruins the Big East’s reputation, but I do think it solidifies what the conference was this year — full of many good teams, but no great or special teams. Of course seeing UConn upset Duke and reach the Final Four would help matters, but the bottom line is this conference was not stacked, but just good.

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