NCAA Tournament 2011: Jamie Dixon, Pitt's Loss Proves Big East Isn't Superior

Sam BlumCorrespondent IMarch 20, 2011

WASHINGTON - MARCH 19:  Gary McGhee #52 of the Pittsburgh Panthers reacts to their loss to the Butler Bulldogs during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Verizon Center on March 19, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

The difference in the game may have been just a small foul on the wrist by Pittsburgh forward Nasir Robinson, yet it is the final score that may have a much larger effect on the landscape of college basketball.

This season, 11 teams out of the Big East were selected for the 2011 NCAA Tournament, a conference record. Some conferences in college basketball don't even have 11 teams. The Big East has 16. Out of those 11 teams, seven have already been eliminated before the third round. Out of those seven, four of the teams were seeded higher than their opponent.

Last season, eight teams from the Big East went dancing, and seven of them went home within the first two rounds.

Many people will look at the stats and see higher RPI's, better SOS's, more quality wins—yet how can the committee justify giving one conference 11 teams, especially when almost all of them are getting ousted in the tournament's first weekend?

Early on day one of the tournament, we saw Morehead State's Demonte Harper drain a three with just seconds remaining to give the Eagles a 62-61 win over No. 4 seed Louisville. Later that night, No. 6 seed St. John's barely even put up a fight against Gonzaga, a team that lost by 22 to BYU just two days later.

The next night, Virginia Commonwealth defeated Georgetown in a game in which the Hoyas looked half asleep.

They were missing every shot and not getting back on defense quickly enough to even give themselves a chance against the Rams, a team that not to be tournament worthy despite receiving anat-large bid.

Everyone sees the Big East as this amazing conglomerate or programs, all of which are similar in talent and recruiting ability. The experts argue that the fact that the top teams in the conference lose games is because the conference has so much depth. However, they are confusing depth for weakness, and that is proven in the fact that when the Big East teams have to play out of conference squads during the NCAA tournament, they continue to lose. 

Some might say that the reason these teams are dropping is because they are worn out from a long conference season and a grueling conference tournament.

Yet, how does that explain the Final Four appearance from West Virginia last year after winning the conference tournament? How does it explain the fact that the best looking Big East team left in the tournament, Connecticut, won five games in five days at Madison Square Garden for the league title? 

What it really comes down to is the fact that the Big East isn't a conference full of amazing teams like we all wish it was. The Big East is actually a conference full of mediocre teams in which no teams have any distinct advantage. 

Today, Marquette will play Syracuse in the second round, in what will be the second all-Big East game of the tournament.

So, at least two Big East teams will make it to the Sweet 16.