City Sports Report

The NCAA sun has set on the Big East

Villanova

By Marc Rasbury

I remember when I was about 10 years old, I asked one of my uncles, “Why isn’t there a big basketball conference in the northeast like the Atlantic Coast Conference or the Big Ten?” This was back in 1974 or so.  A few years later the Big East Conference was formed. For nearly 30 years, this group of mostly small institutions located in major markets dominated the college basketball landscape. That was yesterday. Like Paul McCartney said, “Yesterday seem so far away.”

Yes, yesterday you could pencil in one of the Big East powers like Syracuse, Georgetown, Connecticut, St. John’s, Villanova or even Seton Hall and Providence on your NCAA bracket to advance to the Elite Eight or the Final Four. Remember back in 1985 when the Big East sent three teams (Georgetown, Villanova and St. John’s) to the Final Four and were one bad call away from sending a fourth (Boston College) as well?

Now Syracuse and UConn are not even in the conference any more, replaced by teams closer to the Mississippi River than the Atlantic Ocean. Well if you selected any of these former dominant programs to advance on your respective brackets, then you were out of the running before the second round was over.

Syracuse, now a member of the ACC, and UConn, now representing the American Athletic Conference, did not even get an invitation to the “Big Dance.” The Cuse was banned due to NCAA infractions while the defending NCAA champions, UConn, did not make the cut.

It hurts me to say that St. John’s should have stayed home this year. I’m not saying that Steve Lavin’s crew did not deserve or earn their NCAA bid because they definitely did, but when the undersized team from Queen’s lost center Chris Obekpa, who was suspended for violating team rules, it was an uphill battle before it began. Without Obekpa’s presence in the middle, the Red Storm had no chance versus San Diego State, as they were bounced in their first game in the tournament, losing by 12. Duke most likely would have dismantled them in the next round so they would have been put out of their misery two days later anyway.

To say that Georgetown has been a disappointment in the tournament over the past few years is an understatement. Losing to Virginia Commonwealth University and Florida Gulf Coast in the second round in consecutive years gave the Georgetown faithful a new reason for Hoya Paranoia. At least this year, they were able to advance beyond their first game, defeating Eastern Michigan, 84-74, and then Utah bounced them in the next round.

When the seedlings first came out, I thought Providence could make a little noise. However, Dayton, playing what was viewed as home game, beat the Friars by 13.

Then we have Villanova. The Wildcats were given one of the number one seeds. They earned it, losing only two games all season. They had not lost since January going into Saturday’s contest against North Carolina State. Although the talented Nova backcourt could not make a shot if their lives depended on it, jay Wright’s crew lost this game in the paint. Nova had no answer for the Wolfpack’s Abdul Malik Adu, who abused the Wildcats to the tune of 12 points and 13 rebounds, six of which were offensive and resulting in six-second chance points.

Xavier is the lone Big East team alive in the tournament but a lot folks in this neck of the woods do not see them as a northeastern power with all due respect.

When it is all said and done, Kentucky should take the crown back to Lexington along with the first undefeated Division I team since Ohio State back in 1976, but don’t count Michigan State out.   For some reason Tom Izzo has a knack for getting his team ready and primed at this time of the year despite their regular season record.

Duke and Wisconsin could give Kentucky a run for their money as well. They have the size to go against Calapari’s crew and present matchup problems up and down their respective lineups. I still feel that Kentucky is vulnerable. They barely beat Georgia and LSU this season and both of these squads were bounced in the second round.

The Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight rounds should be something to behold. However, since my beloved northeastern schools have been eliminated, it will not be the same for me. I just look forward to the day when these schools regain their prominence in the college basketball landscape.

One Comment

  1. joe bond (@joebones265)

    March 24, 2015 at 5:52 pm

    Tragic How The Big East has fallen!

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