Big East Might Have Been Overhyped This Season

Only two Big East teams advance to the Sweet 16

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    When the brackets for the 2011 NCAA Tournament were announced, many Big East partisans expressed disappointment that the Round of 32 could feature two matchups between teams from the conference.

    As it turned out, the selection committee was doing the conference a huge favor. Without those two games, the Big East might have been shut out of the Sweet 16 altogether.

    After landing an unprecedented 11 teams into the field of 68, the Big East advanced just two of them into the Sweet 16.

    Both Connecticut and Marquette beat their brethren to remain alive for the second week of play, which makes any complaints about the bracketing seem about as justified as targeting a meteorologist because it rains.

    Throughout the regular season, you couldn't go 15 minutes without hearing some pundit refer to the Big East as the best basketball conference in the country.

    Don't expect to hear that again anytime soon, although we're skeptical that the results of Butler, VCU and the Mountain West entries will stop analysts from puffing up major conference schools at the expense of teams that actually win in March.

    It's ugly any way you choose to look at it.

    You can make excuses for some of the losses. Injuries hurt St. John's, Georgetown and Louisville, but only the Cardinals played their usurpers close enough to argue that things would have been different under other circumstances.

    The conference landed five teams on the top four seed lines, but only UConn advanced beyond their first two games.

    That's kinda funny, because they struggled throughout the Big East season and only got that seed in the conference tournament. Less funny is the way Notre Dame got blown out by ACC also-ran Florida State after having the gall to complain about their seed.

    Five Big East teams lost to double-digit seeds and only one team, Marquette, beat an opponent seeded above them in the first two rounds.

    They knocked off two such teams, one of which was Syracuse and that really makes it a wash for the conference when all is said and done.

    The hardest part for conference supporters might be that this is hardly coming out of left field.

    For all of the attention paid to Big East teams, they have won just five of the last 27 NCAA titles and they fall flat far more often than they wind up making a dent when paired up with the rest of the country.

    And to make matters that much worse, a team that has dominated the conference for years once again fell flat on its face.

    Pittsburgh has been a bully on the Big East block throughout Jamie Dixon's tenure as head coach, but every year ends with a disappointing tournament loss before the Final Four.

    You can feel free to take issue with the officiating at the end of the loss to Butler -- although we wonder why you have a problem with fouls being called -- but it doesn't begin to explain what Pitt was doing in such a close game if they are as good a team as people consistently claim they are.

    For years people have argued that teams from the Big East suffer because they are forced to play in such a deep conference while benefiting from having a tough game every night.

    That's not an easy theory to believe at this hour because it's clear that life inside the Big East bubble was a lot better than life outside of it this season.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.