We’re back with the second annual review of how the major conferences are doing after one weekend of the NCAA Tournament. As we all are aware, the Dance eliminates the pretenders – that means you, Wake and Washington – so that the teams with legitimate chops remain standing. Chalk has predominantly ruled this tournament so far, but that doesn’t keep us from evaluating which conferences are performing better or worse than expectations. We review the conferences with multiple bids below…
Big East (7 bids, 5 remaining, 11-2 record)
The Big East was the most powerful conference all year and they are proving it in the postseason. West Virginia was the only first round loser, and Marquette was outlasted by a tough-as-nails Missouri team in the second round. All other Big East teams advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, setting a new record for the total number from one conference (5). What’s more is that each of these teams are F4-caliber; there isn’t a single Cinderella in the group. It wouldn’t surprise us if this league managed to get 75% of the F4 entrants this year, and we fully expect all five to play into the national quarterfinals.
Verdict: A. The Big East’s expected # of wins for the tournament is 16.2, and there’s a solid chance that the league will bust through twenty wins this season in setting another new record.
Big 12 (6 bids, 3 remaining, 9-3 record)
For the second consecutive year, the Big 12 had another great first round (6-0), culminating in their three best teams making it to the Sweet Sixteen. The league hasn’t had an upset yet, and the three losing teams – Texas, Oklahoma St., and Texas A&M, acquitted themselves nicely in five of their six games (lone exception: TAMU vs. UConn). Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma all have tough but winnable games if they play well, and the Big 12 should reasonably expect to see one of them playing into next weekend. For a “down” year in the league, this is a great performance.
Verdict: A. The Big 12 already has nine wins against an expected performance of 10.57 wins, which basically means they’re doing really well so far.
Atlantic 10 (3 bids, 1 remaining, 3-2 record)
The A10 got three teams into the Dance and made the most of its opportunity, winning two first round games (one an upset with #11 Dayton over #6 WVU), and sending Xavier to yet another Sweet Sixteen. We don’t feel that XU has much of a chance to advance the league’s banner further against Pitt, but never count out a Sean Miller team. Xaviercruised to the Sweets against two good teams.
Verdict: A-. The league was expected to win 2.52 games and they’ve already won three, so anything beyond that is gravy. How pathetic is it that the A10 is outperforming the SEC by a country mile?
Horizon (2 bids, 0 remaining, 1-2 record)
The Horizon had a chance to make some serious noise in this Tournament, but typically-solid Butler couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain when it lost to #8 LSU (who was probably underseeded). However, Cleveland St. so far has had the upset of the Dance with its throttling of #4 Wake Forest, so we’re going to give them the benefit of the doubt here.