The Big East is good. Real, real good. Top-conference-on-Sagarin-by-a-wide
-margin good. But are they really 11 NCAA tournament teams good?
Well, no. But will they get 11 teams in? Most likely, yes.
Let me explain my weird, but not contradictory, statement. The Big East is projected by both Palm and Lunardi to put 11 teams in the dance. That's huge. That's 16% of the tournament field (For those of you saying "Yeah, well, it's also the biggest conference," the Big East has 4.7% of the teams in D1). If you want to talk percentage of the at-large bids, it even more incredible: 27%. Over a quarter of the at-large bids are projected to go to Big East teams. Eleven would bust the old record of most teams from a single conference in the NCAA tournament. But is the Big East really the best conference ever, deserving of setting that record?
Frankly, no. The story this year is one of Big East dominance, for sure, but it's also a story of extreme mediocrity from every other conference without a number in its name (and one with a 10).
The SEC, Big 10, and Big 12 are all projected to get 6 teams in, which loses out in terms of percent of conference in to the Big East by a margin of >10%, but is respectable and the amount a BCS conference should get. Meanwhile, the Pac-10 is projected to get three teams in (Arizona, Washington, UCLA), and the ACC is projected to get four teams in (Duke, UNC, Virginia Tech, Florida State), both bad showings for a Big Six conference.
On top of all this mediocrity by two of the BCS conferences, your usual mid-major threats are all down this year. Sure, the MWC is up significantly, but they are likely only to get three teams in (Colorado State just got beat by Air Force, badly, so I'm not counting the fact they were projected as "in" on Palm's). More importantly, though, the three teams you think of when you think "mid-major" (Memphis, Xavier, and Gonzaga) are all fairly down this year (Xavier has a HUGELY favorable projection IMO. Who have they beat ? Seton Hall? Butler? Some in-conference teams? All of the tournament teams they have played OOC, they have lost to). Butler crashed massively after their championship game appearance, to the point where they're on the very edge of the fence, looking in.
A lot of the mid-major teams making appearances this year are going to be teams like St. Mary's, who rose up in the face of dominant conference rivals to start challenging the Xaviers, the Gonzagas, and the Memphises in the world, running the table year after year until recruiting came in for the rest of the conference. Some of them are teams tailor-made to beat the top team, and therefore, while they are able to beat the top team, they struggle OOC, and the committee doesn't care when you say "But we play a different style... "
So, no. The Big East is not the best it has ever been. But it's more dominant then ever, and that's less its own doing than the other conferences. Thanks for reading to the end of this long one.