Big East unlikely to live up to massive expectations

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The Big East landed 11 teams in the NCAA tournament, the most bids ever by one conference. Now for the bad news: The odds of living up to the expectations of having 11 seeds? Not good.

As Ken Davis writes in for us this week, the Big East is so good, it hurts.

When that first Big East team loses in the 2011 tournament, a graphic will pop up on your television screen: “Big East down to 10 teams.” CBS, TBS, ESPN and all the other networks showing this year’s tournament will be ready to track the Big East “failures.”

How will the conference be judged? By having a national champion? BY avoiding several early outs by conference teams? Or both?

The fairest way is to judge by PASE – Performance Against Seed Expectations. That provides a standard by which each individual team can be judged, and weighed against other conferences as well. Do the math for 11 teams according to where they’re seeded and the Big East should get 17 wins. Actually 16.93, but let’s call it 17.

Yet, because of how those teams are seeded, the most wins the conference can get is 34. That’s if every Big East teams wins as many games as possible until it either runs into another Big East team or wins it all. If they win half of their best possible outcome, the Big East will have lived up to expectations.

It’ll be close. My guess is 15 wins.

When the league got three No. 1 seeds and eight overall in 2009, its PASE was 16.38. And it won 17 games. Yet, few would argue that this year’s Big East is better than the 2009 version that featured two Final Four teams. In fact, I’ll turn to Twitter’s favorite source for wisdom, Jay Bilas (pulled from Ken’s column).

“I don’t think the Big East is as good this year as it was two years ago,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said. “In 2009, the Big East was much better. I think it’s more competitive top to bottom, but that is due to the lack of strength at the top, relative to the top a couple of years ago.

“I think the reason we’re talking about 11 teams getting into the tournament is the relative weakness of the rest of the country. This is the weakest at-large pool we’ve ever had. … Parity doesn’t mean everybody is really good. We’ve got parity down the line because everyone is really average. … That’s why we’re talking about 11 teams, not because the Big East has raised its level of play.”

Good luck to the Big East. Those are some massive expectations without much room for error.

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