Today: Jun 19, 2024

Sports Commentary: Big East stumbles in the NCAA Tournament

Pat Longobardi, Sports Writer:
Going into the second week of the 2011 Men’s NCAA Tournament, the Big East Conference has not lived up to its reputation and deep range of championship teams.
The Big East had 11 teams, the most from one conference in tournament
history. However, two teams advanced into the second week of the tournament.
UConn, a number three seed, also won the conference tournament. Junior Kemba Walker has continued to prove why he is among the finalists for player of the year. Freshmen Jeremy Lamb and Roscoe Smith have stepped up since the conference tournament.
Marquette, a number 11 seed, convinced the committee for a tournament berth, despite a mediocre record. Head coach Buzz Williams has brought them to big wins late in the season, making them a threat. Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom have been keys down the stretch.
I believed with the wide variety of teams, the Big East should have had two teams in the Final Four. I never figured the conference would fall mostly in the first weekend.
The fact that not many teams made it far is making a bad post-season reputation. The conference seems to stumble each year around tournament time. Competitive and memorable games keep up their reputation during the season, always making each team contenders.
Then some of those teams lose, ending their championship-caliber seasons.
The upsets included fourth-seeded Louisville losing in the first round to 13th-seeded Morehead State, 62-61, when senior guard Demonte Harper hit a three with 4.2 seconds remaining. Top-seeded Pittsburgh lost in the second round to eighth-seeded Butler, 71-70, on a controversial ending when junior forward Nasir Robinson fouled senior forward Matt Howard with 0.8 remaining.
Two teams also lost their momentum, catching bad breaks towards the end of the season with losing streaks and key injuries. Villanova played without senior guard Corey Stokes late in the season, losing their final six games, including a first round loss to George Mason. Georgetown played without senior guard Chris Wright late in the season, losing their final five games, and six of their last seven, including a first round loss to Virginia Commonwealth.
In a tournament with questionable seeding, I feel things could have fared differently if some conference teams with high expectations had their seeds changed. What if third-seeded Syracuse moved down to a four seed? Fourth-seeded Louisville moved to a three seed? Top-seeded Pittsburgh, and second-seeded Notre Dame, who both battled for a top seed, traded seeds?
The Big East Conference had many championship-caliber teams this season. I’m sure the conference will change these fortunes, and prove why they are among the elite. I know the conference is good. Now, it is about building a team, or group of teams, that get through different obstacles, and bad performances, and turn them into many victories.

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