The Big East Does Not Deserve to Be in the Tournament

Sounds silly, yeah?  But over and over again during the “First Round” game between UAB and Clemson, the announcers continued to mutter that UAB looks like they do not belong in the tournament.

Really?  The Blazers get beat by a team that was hot — for their part the Blazers stumbled a bit down the stretch — and suddenly they “do not belong” in the tournament!?

Let’s be honest — UAB did not look great at all.  But are we suddenly going to take one game and allow it to speak for the entirety of a season?  Well, for those who thought that Colorado and Virginia Tech deserved to be in the NCAA tournament, the Blazers’ loss only legitimated their own arguments.  All the while, of course, ignoring the illogical notion that one isolated game makes a season.  But nevermind that — UAB sucks!  UAB did not belong because they were blown out by Clemson — a team, by the way, that despite my own criticism perhaps was underseeded.

Ah, but Virginia Tech lost in the NIT.  How can you now make the argument that the Hokies would have fared better than the Blazers?  And Colorado’s “big” wins over Kansas State, Missouri, and Texas?  All three are out of the tournament.  And do not bring up that the Buffaloes are in the NIT Final Four.  While I like the NIT, it is still “inferior” to the NCAA tournament.

Nevertheless, I do not buy that UAB’s loss somehow validates that they did not belong in the tournament.  But many people do.  What is ironic is some of those same people argue that VCU’s run does not validate the Rams being in the tournament.  Weird.

But if you are going to say that UAB losing proves that they did not belong, then let’s look at some other teams that apparently did not belong in the tournament:

  • Xavier (lost by 11 to a lower seed)
  • Syracuse (lost by four to a lower seed)
  • Texas (lost by one to a lower seed)
  • UNLV (lost by 11 to a lower seed)
  • Vanderbilt (lost by three to a lower seed)
  • Louisville (lost by one to a lower seed)
  • Georgetown (lost by 18 to a lower seed)
  • Texas A&M (lost by seven to a lower seed)
  • Purdue (lost by 18 to a lower seed)
  • Notre Dame (lost by 14 to a lower seed)
  • St. John’s (lost by 15 to a lower seed)
  • Pittsburgh (lost by one to a lower seed)

How can I say that a team that loses by one point does not deserve to be in the tournament?  Well, for starters this is my blog.  But, if you are the higher seed, you are supposed to win.  And, if you do not (i.e., are upset), then maybe you did not deserve that seed.  Hey, I am just trying to use the same logic that is being applied to UAB, a team that was likely the last team into the tournament (and thus, technically “seeded” below fellow 12-seed Clemson).

~Ugh! This is Big East basketball!!! (Getty Images)~

But look closer at the higher seeds that have lost.  Syracuse, Louisville, Georgetown, Notre Dame, St. John’s, Pittsburgh.  Hmm.  Of the 12 higher seeds that were upset, half were from the Big East.  Now, of course, the Big East had a ridiculous 11 teams in the tournament — 11 teams!!!  Obviously they are more likely to lose because there are so many teams.  It is like driving your car down a sidewalk in Chinatown — you are almost certainly going to hit a Chinese person.

Still, half of the upset teams are Big East teams?  Three of those losses were in the First Round….ERRRR, sorry.  The “Second” Round.  And of those three winners, only VCU is still playing; the other two — Morehead State and Gonzaga — were blown out in the “Third” Round.

Oh, but it does not stop there.  Remember that 11 teams from the Big East made the NCAA tournament.  Eleven teams!!!  Remember that as recently as 2008 the Big East only allowed the top 12 teams in the conference to participate in their own conference tournament!!!  This means that had that format been in place this season, nearly every team would have made the NCAA tournament (only Seton Hall would have been left out).  Now, granted, all eleven teams had more that 20 wins.  But still…did all eleven really “deserve” to make it?

Well, how many are still playing?  Two.  Out of 11 teams, only two are still playing — UConn, the team with perhaps the best player in college basketball this season; and Marquette, a team that probably did not deserve to be in the tournament to begin with (along with Villanova).  So, from the mighty Big East — a league so awesome that 68.75 percent of its members “deserved” to be in the tournament — only two remain.  And why do those two teams remain?  Well, look at who they beat in the “Third” Round — Cincinnati and Syracuse…two Big East teams!!!!

Sure, that means that two of those nine loses came at the hands of another Big East team…if you want to spin it that way.  But, what if UConn and Marquette played other teams?  Could it be that there would have been zero Big East teams in the Sweet Sixteen?  Maybe…although admittedly, that would have been highly unlikely.

So, if you want to make the argument that UAB did not belong in the tournament because they lost one game, then you should also make the argument that the Big East did not deserve eleven teams.  You might even be inclined to go as far as stating that the Big East is overrated.  UAB was “overrated” and did not belong in the tournament?  Fine.  The Big East was overrated and did not deserve to have 11 teams in the “Big Dance.”  Agreed?

Actually, in full disclosure, I do not buy that argument.  Just like I do not buy that UAB did not belong in the tournament because of one game.  Sports talker Peter Brown, filling in for Tim Brando, made the argument that one game (or in the case of the Big East, a series of “one games”) does not mean that the Big East is overrated or did not deserve to have that many teams in the tournament.  He also tried to argue that the runs by VCU and Richmond do not mean they are better than the Big East.  He is correct, but those teams’ respective runs do validate their place in the tournament, not as though they really needed to do that.

In fact, UAB, VCU, Richmond, and the Big East do not need to validate anything.  It is not their “fault” that they are in the tournament or have x-number of teams in…it is the Selection Committee that needs to validate their choices, not the teams.

Ergo, I agree with Brown — the nine teams out do not suggest that the Big East is overrated.  The Big East is still the toughest conference in college basketball and the entirety of the season proves that point.  It is like the SEC in college football.  It is tough year-in and year-out, but if they stumble one year in bowl games then the calls come out that the SEC is overrated.  You have to look at the entire product.  Besides, the SEC might have been 5-5 in bowl games last year, but one of their members won the BCS championship — the fifth straight title for that conference.  Thus, if UConn wins it all, everyone will forget about the fact that only two teams made it past the first weekend.

The Big East is not overrated because of one game.  But if you are going to buy that argument, then you also must buy that UAB is not undeserving of their at-large bid.  You cannot be selective with that argument.

So, go ahead and admit it…the Blazers deserved it.

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