2011 NCAA Tournament: The Big East's LOL Weekend

Baye Moussa Keita #12 and Mookie Jones #21 of the Syracuse Orange look on from the bench after being defeated by the Marquette Golden Eagles during the third of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Quicken Loans Arena on March 20, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

I'll admit it. It was pretty sobering hearing about how dominant Big East basketball was this season. Remember with the Johnnies smoked Duke and we heard cries of "the number 11 team in the Big East crushed the #1 team in the ACC?"

What goes around, comes around, my former conference friends.

The Big East was the biggest disappointment of the best college sports weekend of the year. After earning a record 11 bids to this year's Dance, the Big East went a mere 9-9 in NCAA Tournament games.

Gone is top-seeded Pittsburgh. So is 2-seed Notre Dame, #3 Syracuse and #4 Louisville. And 5-seed West Virginia. And Cincinnati, St. John's and Georgetown, all 6 seeds. Even Villanova is out, having lost its last six games and eight of ten to finish the season.

Only two teams remain -- Connecticut and Marquette. Of the two, UConn probably still has a decent shot of winning it all, which would help to save face for the Big East. However, neither UConn or Marquette can be considered a favorite to win it all at this point.

Now I know better than to draw any conclusions from the Big East's disastrous performance in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Though seriously oversubscribed as a hoops conference, the Big East is still arguably the deepest conference in America. But at the same time, I can't help but to take a tad bit of pleasure from the egg the Big East has on its face today.

Here a list of talking points you should be sure to bring up with your Big East frenemies on this fine Monday evening:

 

1. "Which conference will place the most teams in the Sweet 16?" For this bracket pool bonus question, I foolishly picked the Big East, thinking math was on my side. How wrong was I?  The ACC is the answer to this bonus question this year, and our conference had just four entries (3 1/2 with Clemson, really). The Big East ties the Mountain West and the city of Richmond -- Richmond and VCU -- with two teams remaining.

2. Record breakers. Sure, the Big East fielded a record 11 teams in this year's Tournament. The Big East also then must have become the first conference to ever have nine teams lose before the Sweet 16. 

3. Round of 32 Big East vs. Big East matchups. Remember when the bracket was released and you heard a collective whine from the Big East contingency about the possibility of two Big East vs. Big East second round matchups? Go ahead and flip that. Shouldn't the Big East be thanking the Committee for guaranteeing that two Big East teams would make the Sweet 16? Especially with the way the rest of the conference performed over the weekend ... 

4. Damage control. Commissioner John Marinatto apparently values regular season results over postseason success:

"The results obviously aren't what we were hoping for," Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said.

"The body of work that our schools created over the course of the year certainly overshadows what happens in the tournament," Marinatto said. "In the tournament, you have to get lucky, you have to be fortunate. Everything has to come together."

So ... when did men's college basketball adopt the BCS?

5. Once is a fluke, twice is a trend ... It would be one thing if this was the first year that the Big East fell flat in the Tournament, but it's not. This is actually the second straight season that the Big East has underperformed in a big way in March. The Big East earned 8 bids to last year's tournament and managed to go just 8-8, with only West Virginia managing to get to the Final Four. This year, the Big East is already at .500, with one team already a 4 1/2 point underdog to UNC in the Sweet 16. The Big East could easily finish below .500 in this year's tournament.

And oh, by the way, a 10 seed from the ACC (Florida State) crushed a 2 seed from the Big East (Notre Dame) while the Seminoles weren't even playing with its best player. Meanwhile, North Carolina can go for the jugular when it faces Marquette in the East Regional Semifinal on Friday.

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