At a school dance, you either get asked to dance or you do not. Those who are asked to dance are generally much happier than those who are not. Well 68 teams will be asked to dance come Selection Sunday (March 13th). 68 schools will be thrilled to accept the invitation. While 279 teams will be disappointed and pray to receive an invitation to either the NIT or the CBI. Only 19.6% of teams in the entire country get a shot to showcase their abilities on College Basketball’s biggest stage, and arguably the best sporting event in American sports.
This year, according to ESPN Draft Expert Joe Lunardi, 11 of the 68 participants will come out of none other than the almighty Big East. College Basketball’s best conference without question. I am still unable to fathom that over 16% of the participants in the madness will come from the same conference no matter how good it is. Come March 13th, I only expect 10 to receive an invite (story for another day), which is still an amazing feat, and will be a new record for a teams out of 1 conference.
Many call this time of year, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Everyone loves March Madness. Whether you like sports or not, you fill out a bracket. It has become a mandatory custom in our culture. There is nothing more exciting than the 1st/2nd rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Generally there are a handful of games that are out of this world good. Also at this time of year, at least in recent memory, comes the bashing and bad mouthing of the Big East. From December until the beginning of March the past few years, everyone and their grandma sings the praises of basketball’s elite conference. They say that from top to bottom no conference compares. There is no competition for the Big East.
Once we hit around March 20th, a couple of rounds into the Madness, the bashing begins. “The Big East is overrated.” “The Big East is not the best conference in America.” “The Big East blinded us and made us think that they were something that they were not.” Well frankly, I am sick of hearing it. Here is my theory on the matter.
The Big East Conference in basketball is the equivalent of the SEC Conference in football. Both conferences dominate their respective sports and have the best teams top to bottom without question. Many people wonder why an SEC school has won the past 5 National Championships in football and no team from the Big East has won a basketball championship since a team led by Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor defeated Georgia Tech back in 2004.
The setup of College Basketball is entirely different from the BCS Land that is College Football. Auburn had 37 days off after they dismantled South Carolina in the SEC Championship game to rest up before they took on Oregon in the BCS Championship Game. Last year, Alabama had 33 days off between the SEC Title Game and the National Championship. Want to know how many days off a team from the Big East gets before they go to war in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tourney? Try 5 days if they go to the conference tourney finals. 5 days off is not a lot.
Now I realize that basketball and football are entirely different sports. Many teams are playing 2 or 3 games a week in basketball and football never plays more than 1. But also realize that the Big East Conference contenders really have no legitimate time to rest up before they go to war in America’s craziest sporting event, March Madness. College basketball players are not video game characters. Tired legs do affect jump shots. Fatigue does occur.
Every year in the Big East Conference, which features 16 teams, at least 13 of the teams are solid basketball squads. Generally, right around 10 are NCAA Tourney caliber, while 2 to 4 are NIT caliber. There are no easy games. And it is the same way with the SEC in football. An easy game is a foreign term. Big East basketball squads play a rugged 18 game conference schedule that spans from the middle of December to March. 3 months of games that are played with an NCAA Tournament atmosphere around them. You better believe that these teams beat on each other. Just like the SEC teams beat on each other in football. The only difference is the recovery time. In football, teams get 30+ days. In basketball, they get 5 tops.
So if the Big East teams this year tend to fizzle out and not really produce any Final Four squads, think twice before you say the Conference was way overrated and overhyped. Generally the fatigue has gotten the best of these squads that play at the elite level on a night in and night out basis. Besides, there is a reason why the Big East Conference has sent more teams to the tournament than any other conference for the past 3 years, sending 8 in 2008, 7 in 2009, and 8 last season. And I promise you the selection committee does not get blinded by the hype or feel a need to send more teams from the Big East than the other conferences. They just know that the Big East has the most tournament caliber teams.
So give the Big East a break.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.