Our West Virginia friends at The Smoking Musket take on the issue of whether the Big East is overrated. Charles Barkley, among other, spent the weekend woofing about the league, "hating" - if you will. The Big East has 2 teams going to the Sweet Sixteen of the 11 that came in. The St. John's Red Storm, Louisville Cardinals, and Georgetown Hoyas lost to lower seeds in the first round; Pittsburgh and Notre Dame were bounced by lower seeds in the second round.
My comment at the Smoking Musket:
First, the overreaction from Charles Barkley (and from writers who cover other conferences) stems from the idea that having 11 teams that should be in the NCAA Tournament (rightfully so) means that there should be proportional representation in all rounds. That’s silly; the league had a lot of good teams, one semi-great team that wasn’t that great (Pitt); and talent-wise, the league IS down.
Maybe the "problem" is recruiting. It’s hard to amass a collection of talent who a) want to play in the Big East and b) want to play on the same team. The recruiting bases for many of the schools overlap in the corridor between the NE prep schools and D.C. The best players, the ready elites, the one-and-dones – they’ve been going to Kentucky, Texas, Duke, and Kansas (and UNC). At a certain point in the Tourney, talent wins out. And the league has had really good but not ELITE talent for years.
Which is to say, I think the comments about the league not churning out talent has merit.
But this year in particular has seen some of the league's best collections of talent fall far short of expectations. The Big East Writers, the Big East coaches, and the Big East bloggers predicted that Villanova and Georgetown would contend for the top of the league, with the best talent; they fell short. And a lot of teams - Cincinnati, in particular - stepped up to eke out wins against the middle of the league.
The Big East well deserved 11 teams in the NCAA Tournament; the league was a lot tougher on average than the Atlantic Coast Conference, with quite a few easily winnable games, or the Pac-10, filled with teams that absorbed terrible losses to the league's worst teams.
But I didn't have any Big East teams in the Final Four; Final Fours require talent. I forget who popularized this idea, but almost all national championship teams and most runners-up have a first-round NBA pick or first-round NBA-caliber talent playing major minutes - usually a non-senior. In other words, raw talent. Next-level ballers. The only NBA first-rounder this year is Connecticut's Kemba Walker.
Thoughts? (And define "overrated" in your comment, if you have a moment.)