Note: I have spent the past few months studying abroad in Florence, Italy and have been unable to update the site. Look for more updates and posts in the next few weeks and onwards.
Every year, we hear how good the Big East is at basketball. Experts wonder how many teams the league can get into the NCAA tourney and how many teams have legitimate Final Four aspirations. Last year, 11 Big East teams danced. After the first weekend, guess how many remained?
The conference had five teams ranked in the top four in their brackets, meaning that all five were expected to advance to the Sweet 16, but only one of those teams, eventual National Champion UCONN, did. The only other team to reach the second weekend from the Big East was Marquette and they advanced by knocking off another Big East team in Syracuse. In retrospect, the conference was not worthy of 11 teams.
In his college basketball preseason power rankings for Yahoo Sports on September 14, Jason King said, “The Big East may be even tougher than it was last season.” Well, given the conference’s poor showing last March, that shouldn’t bee too hard to accomplish. Except, King’s tone implies that he thinks the Big East was tremendous last year and can actually out do that last year.
And yet, the league has already underperformed this year. The defending national champs fell to Central Florida yesterday. Syracuse needed a late comeback to survive Stanford and Louisville just held on to beat Ohio. Not to take anything away from Central Florida, Stanford and Ohio, but Connecticut, Syracuse and Louisville should be winnings these games handily.
The lone team to play abover its potential this year in the Big East has been Marquette and they barely beat Norfolk State, winning 59-57. Cincinnati was expected to have its best season in years and it has already lost to Presbyterian and Marshall. Pittsburgh fell to Long Beach State.
So you don’t think I’m just cherry-picking teams from the conference to fit my argument, UCONN, Syracuse, Louisville, Marquette, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh were the top six teams in the Big East’s preseason coaching coaches’ poll.
Now, it’s certainly very early in the season, but other teams are handling their games much better than Big East teams are. Just look at last night: North Carolina won by 25. Ohio State won by 33. Florida won by 45. Wisconsin won by 23. And the list goes on.
So when conference play heats up after New Years, remember the Big East struggles now. Just because a conference beats itself up within it, it doesn’t mean that the conference is full of good teams. It could just as easily be full of mediocre teams beating each other up. From the first few weeks of the college basketball season, my bet is on the latter over the former.