The Big East Is Set Up To Fail In The NCAA Tournament

In almost every bracket I've filled out so far, no matter how I twist and turn things up, I always end up with at least three Big East teams in the Final Four. I know, I'm insanely biased and unrealistic in the way I go about these picks, but, I can't help myself.

In the face of so many people who not only expect the Big East to fall short in the NCAA Tournament but seemingly want to take delight in it happening, it's a natural reaction or me and many other Big East fans.

In our ideal world, the entire Final Four will be made up of Big East squads as we lord over the sport in a way that hasn't been seen since the mid-to-late 80's.

Of course, due to the many scenarios and other minutia that affect NCAA Tournaments, the more likely scenario is that one Big East team will emerge in the Final Four. And when that happens, multiple writers, some of whom are considered respected journalists and contributors, will write the following:

"Of the 11 Big East team to make the NCAA Tournament, only one made it to the Final Four. That's pathetic and the Big East was revealed as a sham."

If you weren't already rooting for a Final Four with 3+ Big East teams, you are now.

The problem is, however, the deck is so severely stacked against the Big East getting multiple teams to emerge in the Final Four, it's almost a foregone conclusion. It's unavoidable that these teams could meet well before Houston, but at the same time the NCAA Committee did us no favors by setting the conference up to fail.

Let's assume that every Big East team wins their "second" round game and advances to the "third" round. That means two Big East teams are guaranteed to be eliminated before the Sweet Sixteen. Marquette would play Syracuse and Cincy would play UConn. So we're down to 9 eligible teams to make the Sweet Sixteen.

You can argue the committee could have avoided these match-ups by moving a couple of these teams around to different brackets. I'm not ready to call for a full-fledged conspiracy but, you know, they could have tried.

In the Sweet Sixteen, assuming all Big East teams win out, we run into some more conflicts with the 9 remaining squads. Villanova would meet West Virginia in the East and Notre Dame will run into Georgetown in the Southwest. Now we're down to 7 teams.

So knowing that, we know now that we have 7 "true" potential spots for the Big East in the Final Four. At this point a Big East team could meet another Big East team in three of the Elite 8's, the only one that's guaranteed not to include a Big East squad is the top-half of the West.

Chances are, every possible Big East team will not win-out against non-Big East opponents straight-through to the Elite 8. The conference will atrophy along the way. So if we start at the beginning of the tournament with the knowledge that seven true potential spots in the Final Four exist, it's a lot to ask that three or four of those teams make it all the way to the Final Four. It's possible, but, a lot of things are possible in the NCAA Tournament.

Is two Big East teams in the Final Four a valid expectation? The conference has four squads in the East and three in the Southwest. Those are pretty good percentages. It's probably fair to hope for two teams to represent the conference with a pie-in-the-sky of getting three teams in there. That's probably the only way to keep the jackals at bay. If the conference only musters one team or, dare we say, no teams in the Final Four, the cry will come down from high that the Big East is phony.

Of course even if the conference does send three teams there, does that really prove anything? Not really when you break it down. There's too much luck, happenstance, seeding and match-up difference in the tournament to make it impossible to put the results in a neat little box. But, perception is perception, and Syracuse, UConn, Pitt, Notre Dame, St. John's, Villanova, West Virginia, Georgetown, Marquette and Cincinnati would do themselves and the conference well to win as many games as they all possibly can.

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