Impressive feat for the beast of the Big East

Christopher A. Smith

There is no question that the biggest loser on Selection Sunday was the Big East Conference.

But two weeks later, the biggest winner of the NCAA Men’s Tournament is that same Big East Conference.

A league built on physical defense and hustle has muscled and ran its way to a perfect 8-0 record thus far, the only conference in the nation to go undefeated through the first two rounds.

And with the Pittsburgh Panthers, Syracuse Orangemen, Connecticut Huskies and Notre Dame Fighting Irish all in different regions, the conference has an opportunity to do something no other conference has ever done: send four teams to the final four.

The closest any league has come to such a feat was in 1985 when one league sent three teams to the Final Four.

That league was the Big East, with St. John’s, Georgetown and Villanova all left standing on the last weekend of tourney play.

Not only has the Big East gone 8-0, but also they have done it in impressive fashion. UConn and Notre Dame scored minor upsets with second round victories over Stanford and Illinois, respectively.

And after the Panthers picked his Indiana team apart, head coach Mike Davis said that Pitt was the best team his squad played all year. And his team played Kentucky this year.

So what was the selection committee thinking taking only four Big East teams? Boston College and Seton Hall both had resumes that were good enough to make the tournament. Instead, teams like North Carolina State and Alabama were chosen. Both were eliminated in round one.

And more perplexing was the amount of at-large bids given to mid-majors who did not win their conference. It is ridiculous to think that Southern Illinois’s 24 wins is more impressive than Boston College’s 18. Imagine how many wins the Eagles would rack up if they played in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Of the sixteen teams remaining, only one, Butler, is a mid-major.

Boston College probably had the best argument of any team that got snubbed. They won 18 games, played well late, had a star player in Troy Bell, and won their division of the Big East conference with 10 wins. But for whatever reason, they were relegated to the NIT.

And Pitt deserves some sympathy too. It is unbelievable that a team can lose just four games all year, never leave the top 10, win their conference regular season and tournament championships, and not be given a number one seed.

Instead the number one seed went to a Texas team that could not win the Big 12 regular season or tournament championship.

And to make matters worse, Pitt was sent to the hottest team in the nation’s bracket, Kentucky.

Even Dick Vitale was able to take some time out of his rants about Duke to admit that the Big East got hosed.

However, the Big East has responded properly to the lack of respect they were given. Commissioner Mike Tranghese spoke with Pitt head coach Ben Howland after the selection, and both agreed that the only way to respond was by winning games.

And how about this for some Big East pride. After Pittsburgh defeated Indiana on Sunday, they passed Syracuse on their way out of the arena. The Orangemen were getting ready to defeat Oklahoma State by 12 points after spotting them a 17-point advantage.

As the teams crossed path