There’s no way around it – the Big East produced a disappointing showing through the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Nine of the 11 teams to receive tournament bids are gone – a couple of those due to Big-East-on-Big-East games, but since those games also guaranteed one Big East team would advance, it’s a wash.
And as you undoubtedly know if you’ve been following the tournament in the slightest, no one’s taken more delight in taking the Big East to task for underperforming than Charles Barkley. He said the conference was overrated before the tournament, and when its teams started making him look prescient, he pretty much just threw a personal party.
Well, the conference wasn’t just going to sit there and let Barkley talk about it like that. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and Louisville’s Rick Pitino appeared on ESPN’s Outside the Lines to talk tournament, and Boeheim made a point of defending the conference. And he had a message in particular for Barkley – he called him a “funny guy” and said he liked him, but in addition to that, well…
And let’s remember: Sir Charles does not take kindly to his knowledge being questioned. And unfortunately for Boeheim, his other defenses of the conference don’t hold water. He lamented that but for a “couple plays,” the Big East “could have four teams in the Sweet 16.” Well, the Big East teams didn’t make those plays, so they’re not advancing.
Additionally, Boeheim cited a (misleading) statistic in saying the Big East had 13 percent of the teams left in the tournament (12.5 percent to be exact, but acceptable), whereas at the beginning of the tournament, they had 16 percent. Where that misses the mark is that the entire tournament field contains many low seeds from smaller conferences with little to no chance of advancing, none of which were Big East teams (the lowest-seeded Big East team was Marquette at 11 – and wouldn’t you know it, they’re one of the two schools from the conference still left).
How about if you look at teams seeded 1-6? Big East 1/8 (12.5%). Field 10/15 (66.7%).
In other words, the Big East teams considered “better” absolutely did not live up to the hype. I understand that Boeheim wants to make the conference look good, that this kind of spin is part of the job, but no matter how you spin it – and as I’ve referenced about 38,000 other times since this site launched – this coming from a graduate of a Big East school – so far in this NCAA Tournament, the Big East comes up short.