As the message boards are starting to buzz with talk about how many bids the Big East teams may receive, it is interesting to note this observation:
Since expansion in 2006, there have been zero Big East teams with more than four non-conference losses that were subsequently invited to the NCAA tournament.Bad news for the league is that we have five conference teams that have already tallied five non-con losses: Notre Dame, Villanova, Rutgers, South Florida and St. Johns. If history is any indication, these teams are likely out of the race for an NCAA bid. And with the possible exception of Rutgers' win over Florida--there isn't much evidence to date that one can use to mount a counter-argument.
Strip away the reputation of Villanova and Notre Dame based on prior Big East success and you find that there are only 3 wins over current RPI* top 100 teams: the aforementioned Rutgers upset of Florida, USF's win over #65 Cleveland State and St. Johns win over #99 Lehigh. VU and ND have a combined zero non-conference victories over a current top 100 RPI opponent.
In the past, the league separated itself into a handful of elite teams, and handful of laggards, and bunch of teams in the middle fighting for fan NCAA bid. It appears the same is happening this year as well.
In: UConn, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Syracuse
Bubble: Pitt, Cincinnati, Seton Hall, West Virginia
- Pittsburgh: Ordinarily, one would be writing off the tournament possibilities for a team with the body of work that Pitt has put forth to date. However, as long as Tray Woodall has a chance to return, the Panthers remain alive if they put together some strong wins once he returns.
- Cincinnati: The Bearcats haven't distinguished themselves in non-conference play (leading to imponderables like: which is uglier--the brawl against Xavier or the loss to Presbyterian?). UC has a chance to separate themselves from the bottom over the next two weeks. 3 of their next four games are at home against ND, Villanova and St. Johns.
- Seton Hall is the 2012 version of 2011 Cincinnati. Nice non-conference record, but they will remain suspect until they beat someone of note. The blowout loss to Syracuse doesn't do it, but the blowout win over WVU might be an indication that SHU is at the head of the middle of the pack. However, questions of legitimacy will dog the Pirates unless they pull an upset over Syracuse, Marquette, Louisville, UConn or Georgetown.
- West Virginia gives you just enough good (wins over K-State, Missouri State and Miami) to think they're bordering on the upper-division. But they lost their two best chances for a quality non-con win losing to Mississippi State and Baylor, and the loss to Seton Hall puts them at an early disadvantage in the middle.