The Big East performed about as well as I did over the weekend. Following opening game upsets by Louisville, St. John’s and Georgetown (the last two in convincing fashion), the Big East went 2-5 over the weekend’s third round, with two wins (and of course, two losses) coming in the head to head games between Big East teams.
Conversation turned to whether the Big East was overrated or not, and how much the tournament’s single elimination style can mean. Some take the position that it means little, that the Big East proved it’s quality in amassing a significantly superior record (29-16 against other BCS schools) and rightfully getting 11 teams in. At the other extreme are those that say the tournament proves a conference’s mettle.
Of course, I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. For the Big East defenders that decry the uncertainties of single elimination, aren’t we basing our previous judgments on single games? Once we strip away the fluff and even the dregs of the BCS conference, you can’t be talking about more than 40 legitimately measure-worthy games in November and December. They won more than their fair share of those. They’ve played 18 in March, almost half that. We’re not talking about the difference between a massive rock solid sample size and an insignificant few.
So I think that the truth lies somewhere in between, the Big East was overrated by wins in November and December, but also had 11 of the best teams in basketball, and are better than what they’ve shown in March.
So how bad was it for the Big East in the first week? Well, I don’t think you can put enough lipstick on this pig. Using the performance above seed method, which looks at how many wins a conference should have based on their seeding and those historical results, the Big East should have 16.9 wins on average in the 2011 tournament. They are 9-9 and have only #3 Connecticut and #11 Marquette. If they don’t win 2 more games, it blows any other conference since 1985 out of the water. If they win two, they will just move past, well, you’ll see below, into second worst.
Here are the previous worst total conference performances below seed since 1985:
- Big East, 2010, 14.1 expected wins, 8-8 tourney record
- Big Eight, 1990, 8.1 expected wins, 2-4 tourney record
- Big Ten, 2006, 8.8 expected wins, 3-6 tourney record
- Big Eight, 1992, 9.3 expected wins, 4-5 tourney record
- Big Ten, 1993, 6.3 expected wins, 1-6 tourney record
- Pac-10, 1999, 5.9 expected wins, 1-4 tourney record
- Pac-10, 2000, 8.8 expected wins, 4-4 tourney record
- Big XII, 2001, 7.8 expected wins, 3-6 tourney record
You could say that the Big East is disadvantaged by the number of teams in this method. Yes and No. Sure, there’s more opportunity to underperform, but there’s also more buffer against one or two upsets skewing the results.
The bottom line is this. For the second year in a row, the Big East has massively underperformed expectations in the tournament, and will probably own the two most extreme under performances of the modern 64-team era.
Just bad luck? A product of good coaches and veteran players feasting on younger teams early, to overinflate their value? A product of too many good teams beating each other up do nothing’s left? I don’t know the answer to that one.
[Photo via Getty]
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