March Madness 2011 Second and Third Rounds: The Very Small Big East

Aaron MContributor IIIMarch 21, 2011

Panthers small forward Nasir Robinson fouls Matt Howard, continuing the Big East misery this tournament
Panthers small forward Nasir Robinson fouls Matt Howard, continuing the Big East misery this tournamentRob Carr/Getty Images

The 2011 Big East has been viewed as being a far superior conference in relation to every other conference in the NCAA this season.

With a record 11 teams in this year's NCAA Tournament, it is impossible to fill out a bracket without considering a Big East team as a possible contender.

Yet, after three rounds and nine Big East exits, the Big East have faded and have left most brackets in complete and utter shambles.

The destruction of the conference started with the Georgetown Hoyas led by guard Austin Freeman. The 235 lbs senior guard had a dreadful 3-14 day from the field including a miserable 0-7 from beyond the three-point line.

The Hoyas were subsequently handed an 18 point defeat by the 11th ranked VCU, who days prior participated in a playoff game which solidified their entrance into this year's tournament.

Another shocker was Villanova: The Wildcats, ranked sixth in preseason polls, failed to score a field-goal in the final three minutes and 28 seconds.

This dreadful offensive execution, combined with missed free throws, allowed George Mason to advance and left Wildcats coach Jay Wright answering questions about the team's program.

Wright, who has coached the Wildcats to one Elite Eight appearance in the past decade, had this to say about the program: "If I was a pro coach, I'd probably get fired for this season."

The St. John's Red Storm were expected to turn heads this tournament. They managed to turn things around this season led by coach Steve Lavin. With regular season wins over Georgetown, Duke and Pittsburgh, among other ranked opponents, the Red Storm were seen as a strong possibility to enter the Sweet Sixteen.

Instead, they allowed Gonzaga to shoot 53.8 percent and were defeated 86-71.

The Louisville Cardinals were stunned in the second round by the relatively unknown Morehead state. The Morehead St. Eagles, led by 6'1" guard Terrance Hill's 23 points, defeated the Cardinals by a score of 62-61, despite shooting an atrocious 36.8 percent from the field.

West Virginia continued the Big East's dismal offensive execution this tournament by shooting 41.5 percent against Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats. The Mountaineers, who held an eight-point lead at halftime, fell apart in the second half and were eliminated in the third round.

Notre Dame, Syracuse and Cincinnati also all exited the third round.

Yet the biggest stunner of all is none other than the Pittsburgh Panthers.

The No. 1 ranked Panthers were eight-point favorites against last year's finalist: Butler Bulldogs. With two seconds left and a 70-69 lead, the 6'5" Panthers small forward Nasir Robinson committed the unimaginable by fouling Butler's Matt Howard 85 feet away from the basket.

Howard went on to make both free-throws and sank the hearts of Panthers fans as the eight-to-one favorite to win the entire tournament were now eliminated by a score of 71-70.

Nine have faded, two remain.

It is clear to see that the second and third rounds have made the Big East, who have a 9-9 record thus far, seem very small.