Wednesday, February 08, 2006

How Deep is the Big East?

I'll tell you how deep. Louisville and Notre Dame might not qualify for the tournament. I'm not talking about the NCAA's big dance, I'm referring to the Big East conference tournament. I like to call the league "The Enormous East" because 16 teams is just too many for a college conference. If you can't work out a schedule to play each school at least once, which the Big East is unable to do, then you've simply got too many teams.

That doesn't mean they're not good, however. South Florida appears to be the only bad team in the Big East, but that was expected. I doubt anyone thought Louisville and Notre Dame would be scraping just to qualify for a trip to the league tournament at Madison Square Garden, which only the top 12 teams get to make.

During the preseason, Louisville coach Rick Pitino warned anyone who would listen that his team could struggle this year. Given the fact that they reached the Final Four last season and still had star Taquan Dean on the roster, few people listened. After all, coaches love to downplay expectations for their own teams and treat everyone else like they are the rebirth of the UCLA dynasty. It looks like Pitino was not just blowing smoke, however. Dean's health, actually lack of such, has been a problem, but the more fundamental issue is the Cardinals' problem scoring points. They went through a five-game stretch last month when they failed to break the 70-point mark and lost four of them.

Louisville did earn a critical 89-86 overtime win over Notre Dame last Saturday. Taquan Dean hit a last-second three-pointer to force overtime, a finish which was all too familiar to the Fighting Irish this season. Notre Dame is 1-8 in the conference, but their largest margin of defeat is only six points. Their eight losses in the league have been by a combined 26 points, hardly what I would call the luck of the Irish.

It's hard to imagine a team with two players as good as Chris Quinn and Torin Francis sporting a 10-10 overall record. It's possible Notre Dame might not even qualify for the NIT, which would end their season on March 4. It's also possible they could get on a roll with their favorable upcoming schedule to qualify for the Big East Tournament and squeak out enough wins there to earn an NCAA bid.

Nothing in the Big East is easy this year, and if you don't believe that, just ask Rick Pitino or Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey.


At 3:12 PM, Blogger dolphinfan said...

Everyone thought the Big East was over-rated in football then West Virginia went out and won the Sugar Bowl.

They proved to be solid in football and the conference is more than solid in basketball.


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