While Villanova is the lone Big East team left in the NCAA Tournament, that doesn’t mean the conference is not on the right track.
The madness of this March in the NCAA Tournament has left its fair share of upsets this year. One of them came on Sunday night when the top seed in the West, Xavier, was ousted by Florida State in Nashville. Xavier’s loss left Villanova as the lone team from the Big East in Sweet 16.
Some would say that the year has been disappointing for the Big East since only one team is left. However, March is a month that is always more defined by matchups. While Villanova and Xavier were the top seeds in their region, the rest of the conference did not get great seeds that would help them make a deep run.
Creighton, Seton Hall, Butler, and Providence were all in the eight-to-10-seed range in their respective regions. While Seton Hall and Butler did get wins in the first round, they were unable to finish the job late against Kansas and Purdue respectively in the second round.
While the Big East didn’t have the success in the tournament they would have hoped for, they still got six teams into the big dance for the second straight year. They have had 13 bids in total dating back to the 2016-17 season when the conference got seven teams in.
One thing that is evident when you watch Big East basketball is that no game is easy, especially when you go on the road. While Villanova and Xavier did well in the league, third place and sixth place were separated by one game. Since the middle of the Big East knocked each around, it was going to be tough for the conference to get a lot of high seeds like the ACC, SEC, or Big 12.
When you look at what the Big East did in non-conference play, they had some great wins. Seton Hall got a neutral court win over Texas Tech, who is still in the NCAA Tournament. Plus, Villanova had a neutral court win over Gonzaga, who is also in the Sweet 16.
The Big East has nothing to hang their heads for after the first weekend. The only conference that does is the Pac 12, which only got three teams in (two in the First Four) and did not record a single win. This includes Buffalo blowing out Arizona in Boise on Thursday.
If there is any disappointment from the conference in this tournament, then it would have to be Xavier. This year, the Musketeers were the hunted instead of the hunters after their Elite Eight run a year ago. But in the second round against Florida State, they turned it over 18 times and only got eight points from their leading scorer, Trevon Bluiett.
Bluiett’s off night was a big surprise around the country. Before Sunday, he only had one game this year in which he did not have double-digit points (two against Georgetown on Feb. 21). Once J.P. Macura picked up his fourth foul in the second half, the Musketeers needed someone to pick up the scoring and they didn’t get it.
In the end, if Villanova finds a way to cut down the nets in San Antonio, it would be their second title in three years. That’s not a bad team to have as the proverbial flag bearer for the Big East. Plus, this would be in a year where they didn’t even win the regular season title for the first time since the new Big East was formed.
True, Xavier had high expectations this year after winning the regular season and failed. However, Seton Hall’s seniors finally got their tournament win and Butler picked up a first-round win under new head coach LaVall Jordan in a season when they were picked to finished eighth in the conference.
Yes, if Villanova gets eliminated before the Final Four, then the conversation can be changed. With that being said, the conference has taken great strides in the last two years to change its national perception. This year’s madness should do nothing to change that positive momentum.