Some historical perspective from the New York Times:
"In 2006, the Big East set an NCAA tournament record by ushering eight teams into March Madness. In 2008, the conference tied its own mark with another eight-team showing. The latest edition of Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology at ESPN.com has seven Big East teams making the tournament this season. We could still have a record this year, though, as Georgetown, Cincinnati and Providence could also squeeze in."
Georgetown hurt their chances with a 76-58 loss to Louisville tonight, but could still sneak in by winning their final three games. The fact that an 8-10 team could potentially dance speaks volumes about the conference. Here's one way to look at it: The Big Ten, which is no slouch of a conference (and also has seven teams Marching to Madness according to Lunardi), has its 11 teams averaging 17.1 total wins this season. The top 13 teams in the Big East average 18.8 wins.
Here are some Big East games that have taken place in the last three weeks:
1 Connecticut vs. 7 Louisville
16 Villanova vs. 20 Syracuse
13 Villanova vs. 12 Marquette
1 Connecticut vs. 22 Syracuse
Notre Dame vs. 7 Louisville (ND ranked as high as 7 this year)
4 Pittsburgh vs. 1 Connecticut
11 Marquette vs. Georgetown (ranked as high as 9 this year)
14 Villanova vs. 25 Syracuse
6 Louisville vs. Georgetown
This Wednesday, (2) UConn will visit (10) Marquette, and then Marquette has to visit (6) Louisville this weekend.
The point: the Big East is a freakin' gauntlet this season. Teams like Connecticut and Pittsburgh (and Louisville, and Marquette, and Villanova ...) will be very well prepared for the madness coming next month, as they have faced top teams week in and week out since early January. It would not be surprising to see three or four Big East teams in the Elite Eight, and even two or three in the Final Four. Of course, anyone can get hot in March, but the Big East teams have the advantage of having faced the heat all season.
One last point: What the hell is DePaul doing in this conference? Other than losing, that is. The Blue Demons have to be feeling quite blue about their 0-14 conference record. But they don't just lose, they lose like only a team that is completely and utterly over matched in every conference game they play can lose: by an average of 17.6 points per game.
DePaul went from Conference USA to the Big East in 2005 when the Big East invited them, Cincinnati, Louisville, Marquette and South Florida to join their ranks in response to having lost three football teams. But DePaul doesn't even have a football team, and they apparently don't have a basketball team either. This invitation was clearly like when you're having a party and there's that guy at work who has no friends and is way too proud of his Star Trek Convention Trivia Championship and he always has just a little bit of drool on his chin but you have to invite him because he's going to find out about it anyways, but I'll tell him it's just a little get-together and it's no big deal if he can't make it and please God let him be busy that night. But no, DePaul's schedule was completely free that night and he can't wait to come and he'll bring his Star Trek: Insurrection DVD because it's the one where the crew discovers a cloaked Federation ship that contains a gigantic holodeck and it's going to be the greatest night ever and have you seen it yet? You haven't seen it? Do you think everyone else has seen it? I'll come over early and get it all set up.
So now DePaul gets the crap beaten out of it every year, having won a total of 20 conference games in their four years in the Big East. This year's fourth and fifth place teams (Louisville and Villanova) have combined for 22 wins THIS SEASON. With 16 teams, the Big East is more like the Huge East, and should think about downsizing.
But more importantly, it's also incredibly strong from top to middle, and it should be exciting to see how the teams fare come tournament time.