The Kinder Garden - 2/16/03

It's time once again to debunk all the Big East bashing that usually appears this time of year.

It happens every season around this time. Pundits who cover Big East basketball take a three second look at the standings, then declare that the Big East is a bad conference based on one of two criteria.

If the conference is being dominated by one or two teams, then the Big East is no good because it doesn't have any depth. If the reverse is true, and there's a mad scramble for position among the league's teams, then the league is no good because there aren't any dominant teams. Talk about a Catch-22!

Since no Big East team has fewer than four losses, the snap judgment is made, of course, that there aren't any good teams in the conference. If there were, the logic runs, would Big East teams be losing all these games to each other?

I'm here to say, loudly, that this year's Big East is a great conference. I don't say that every year, and I'm not saying it because WVU is a member of it. the big East definitely had a couple of down season in recent history. But that's not true this year.

I've watched enough Big East basketball this year to know that Pitt, Syracuse, Villanova, Notre Dame and Connecticut are good enough to play with any team in the nation night in and night out. And I wouldn't be surprised to see the Panthers, Orangemen or Irish make it to the Final Four.

I also know that the rest of the league, with the exception of perhaps one or two teams, is good enough to play with and knock off top 25 teams at any time.

Exhibit A, of course, is West Virginia's win over Florida earlier this year. Seton Hall took texas to the wire. Miami lost to Florida in double overtime by a point, and St. John's lost to North Carolina by four.

I also believe that the recent rash of "upsets" in the Big East aren't an indicator of the top teams' weakness. Instead, I think it's indicative of the overall strength of the conference.

When Seton Hall knocks off Pitt, or Villanove upends Connecticut, it can be said that it's just one of those things. But when those type of "upsets" happen again and again, it leads me to a different conclusion, especially when those same teams have success against other Top 25 foes.

One other point to look at - at last count, the Big East had seven of its 14 teams in the top 50 of the RPI. How can a conference that has half of its teams in that range be no good? (That's the same number as the SEC, by the way.)

Understand that I'm not trying to make a case for West Virginia's inclusion as an NCAA pick, or trying to say that the Big East is the best conference in the country. I'm simply tired of analyses with no thought behind them, and I'm sure you are too.

So enjoy the rest of this Big East season. Revel in the 'upsets'. And understand that you are watching some excellent college basketball teams.

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