Ok, I’ve tried to bite my tongue for a few weeks now. I’ve heard it mentioned many times that the Big East Tournament is the be-all-end-all of college basketball. Bobby Knight went so far as to say on air a few weeks back that, “winning the Big East Tournament is just as hard as winning the NCAA Tournament.” I’ve heard other people sing its praises and say there’s nothing else lke it. But this morning, while listening to a certain radio talk show, I heard the last straw. First, let me say that there is no bigger Big East homer than yours truly. I’ll tell anyone that will listen that I think it’s like the SEC in football, it’s the best year in and year out, and that will never change. I think it promotes the highest level of competition from game to game and you can never take a night off (unless you’re playing South Florida, of course). That said, I also LOVE the Big East Tournament. I love hearing Bilas, Raftery, Dan Schulman, Sean McDunough and the crew calling all the games over a five day span. But……… please don’t ever compare it to the NCAA Tournament. Here’s why:
1. There’s no finality to it – No double-digit seed has ever won the Big East Tournament, and aside from Syracuse in 2006 (a 9 seed), no other team in recent memory has won the tournament as their only means to making the NCAA field of 64 – err, 68 – whatever. So, really, any team making noise in the Big East Tournanent is most likely already in the dance, so if they lose, there’s no finality to their season. They will still live to fight another day.
2. Everybody knows each other’s styles – What’s the old saying, familiarity breeds contempt? Well, there’ll be a lot of contempt this week in New York City. Many of these teams have already played each other twice, and by now, there are NO secrets. You’re not going to suddenly transform into a different team that coaches haven’t seen on film all season long. At this point, you are who you are – and the Big East coaching staff’s know all your little ideosyncrasies as well as your stregths and weaknesses.
3. No preparation time – Even if you wanted to throw a little wrinkle into your scheme and show a different defense or press, when are you going to practice it? How would you institute such a change? With a game each day against a new opponent (which will be one of two teams, making it impossible to plot one way or the other) there’s no way to add anything new. At least in the NCAA Tournament you have a minimum of 3-4 days to plot against your first opponent and if you advance, a day in between your weekend game so you can watch film and make adjustments.
4. It’s not a neutral site – Teams like Uconn and Villanova (a short train ride), Syracuse ( few hours in a car), St. John’s (it’s their freaking homecourt), and Notre Dame (strong alumni base in NYC) will always have an advantage over teams like Louisville and Cincinnati that have further distances to travel and no real alumni ties to the city. There’s a reason why Louisville has never won a Big East Tournament game aside from their run in 2009. And if you think Louisville and Cincy have it bad, at least they’re not located in Tampa, like South Florida.
So again, I love the Big East Tournament, but I also take it with a grain of salt. To me, the real conference championship is the one you win for finishing first in the regular season. When you have to go on the road and do it over a three month period. If your team loses early this week, take this into consideration: Since 2000 only ONE team has gone on to win the Big East Tournament and the National Championship – Uconn in 2004.
If you lose, you still have next week.
– Brent Lepping