NCAA Tournament 2013: Watered-Down Big East Should Sweat Selection Sunday

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NCAA Tournament 2013: Watered-Down Big East Should Sweat Selection Sunday
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell loves parity. The more teams can create regular-season chaos the better business is, and for years The Shield has succeeded in its strategy to build competitive balance.

However, football's "chaos strategy"—which brings in billions of dollars a year—doesn't work for every sport, and the best example of this is men's college basketball, specifically the Big East Conference.

Through nearly one-third of the league's schedule (about seven games), already 12 of 15 teams have three losses.

The lone undefeated team, No. 3-ranked Syracuse Orange (18-1, 6-0 Big East), already owns a one-and-a-half game lead on the second-place Marquette Golden Eagles (13-4, 4-1) and a two-game lead on the third-place Louisville Cardinals (16-3, 4-2).

From there, three schools—the Cincinnati Bearcats, Pittsburgh Panthers and St. John's Red Storm—have a 4-3 conference record, while three other programs—the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Georgetown Hoyas and Villanova Wildcats—are 3-3 in Big East play. Two more teams— the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-4) and Connecticut Huskies (2-3)—are a half game behind those respective teams.

The Big East's 13th-place team, the Providence Friars, defeated Villanova, which handed Louisville its second straight loss on Tuesday. 

St. John's, currently slotted fifth in the Big East standings, has already earned wins over sixth-place Cincinnati and eighth-place Notre Dame. However, they dropped games to both 'Nova and visiting Rutgers, which the Red Storm already avenged Wednesday in the season series finale.

Georgetown has earned victories over both St. John's and Notre Dame. However, they somehow lost to the last-place South Florida Bulls, who are 1-5 in the conference.

As of Thursday, six teams are separated by a half game in the league standings.

Sure this is all fun to watch, but this type of parity, unlike the the NFL, is bad for business.

See, conferences make money based on NCAA Tournament units (bids)— nearly $1.9 million per team—and the goal is for each league to earn as many units as possible, especially if the units are being split up 15 different ways like the Big East does.

Currently, according to ESPN's Joe Lundari's latest Bracketology update, the Big East is predicted to send seven teams to the NCAA Tournament.

However, because of the league's competitive balance, which increases the chance of a possible NCAA Tournament team having its resume tainted by a "bad" loss, that number could shrink.

For example, Lunardi has Georgetown and Notre Dame as No. 10 seeds and Pittsburgh as a No. 9. Not one of those teams has shown an ability to play consistent basketball and could easily be defeated by a seemingly lesser opponent, something each already have experienced.

If it happens more than once in the next month, specifically in the Big East Tournament, which is known for its upsets, it could spell doom for one of those teams.

For the Big East, which has received at least eight NCAA invitations in six of the last seven years, this could mean fewer representatives in the biggest money making event of the year.

Not only could NCAA bids be at stake in the next month, but also NCAA Tournament seedings for the top teams.

History shows a better seeding means a better chance of advancing to the next round, which for the Big East means more money in the overall pot—last season a team that advanced to the Final Four made $9.5 million for its league.

So, as much as these upsets are exciting to watch, come Feb. and March it would be best for the Big East if some of the "bubble" teams find consistency and beat the teams they're supposed to.

If they don't, Selection Sunday could be one the league will want to forget.

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