Big East’s three March Madness teams should stand strong after weak response from league brass

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Zach Braziller

college basketball

It’s up to you, Connecticut, Marquette and Creighton. It is now your job to carry the Big East flag.

To prove what we all knew: that the NCAA Tournament selection committee made a mistake by taking just three teams from a conference that is ranked second in the nation by the analytical website, and has the second-most It was considered a good conference. country by most observers.

The league’s top brass seemed to be fine with what happened, waiting all day to issue a Charmin-soft statement after their teams were railroaded. The Big East seems OK with the tire marks on its back, acknowledging that poorly rated leagues like the Mountain West (six), the Big Ten (six) and the ACC (five) were somehow rewarded instead.

On Saturday night, after a memorable Big East Tournament finale with a sellout crowd as Connecticut cut down the din of Madison Square Garden, I asked Huskies coach Dan Hurley about the league receiving only three NCAA Tournament bids. Asked about the possibility.

“who said so?” He replied incredulously. “Is that what they say?”

The bracketologist was not saying this for nothing. This became a frustrating reality on Sunday night, when the pairings were released by a selection committee that was incoherent as chairman Charles McClelland was unwilling to explain some decisions.

The conference, which has won three of the last six national championships, along with the favorite (No. 1 seed Connecticut) and two other Final Four contenders (No. 2 Marquette and No. 3 Creighton), somehow managed to get just three teams into the dance. This was its worst performance since 1993.

Dan Hurley celebrates a win over the Marquette Golden Eagles at Madison Square Garden. Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Despite a NET ranking of 32, St. John’s did not make the NCAA Tournament. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

If it were not for five bid-stealers, teams that did not win their respective conference tournaments to make the tournament, Seton Hall would have finished fourth. Instead it was the other team. That St. John’s and Providence were not even among the first four teams is evidence that the committee disregarded and discredited the conference. It was treated like a mid-major, while the lower-ranked ACC, SEC and Big Ten were given the benefit of the doubt.

As Hurley has said many times, it was outrageous. Hurley has been joined by several Big East coaches in criticizing the committee, from St. John’s Rick Pitino and Seton Hall’s Shaheen Holloway to Butler’s Thad Matta and Providence’s Kim English. Big East brass remained silent for 24 hours until the committee was basically patted on the back.

The post has you covered with a printable NCAA bracket that includes the entire 68-team March Madness 2024 field.

“We have great respect for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee and the time and effort that goes into selecting and seeding teams for the NCAA Tournament,” the statement said. “This is a very challenging task, and we have been advised that this year’s troubles have increased the complexity and contributed to the committee’s final bracket selections.

“Given the high level of play in our league, we are naturally very disappointed that some deserving Big East teams were not selected to participate. We will work closely with our schools in the coming months to best position the Big East next year and ensure our representation in March Madness continues to be consistent with our stature as one of the best conferences in college basketball .

Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post
Providence College men’s basketball head coach Kim English speaks to the media following the announcement of the NCAA March Madness bracket at the Ruan Fryar Development Center. Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Not enough – not nearly enough. Where is the anger? Where is the anger? Where is the disappointment? Commissioner Val Ackerman has so far declined interview requests from The Post. It was the opposite approach taken by Florida State and the ACC when the undefeated Seminoles were eliminated from the College Football Playoff in December.

McClelland has made several interesting statements since the revelation that Michigan State was selected as a nine-seed because of its Quad 1 wins. The Spartans are 3-9 in Quad 1 games. Providence won twice that amount. Seton Hall (five) and St. John’s (four) had more. Virginia went 2–7 and was picked as the final team.

He said St. John’s Quad 1 record (4-10) was a deterrent. He found fault in Seton Hall’s impressive win over Connecticut, one of three losses for the powerhouse Huskies all season, as center Donovan Clingan suffered an injury in the second half. No mention that Seton Hall’s two losses came without star guard Kadri Richmond. McClelland used metrics in explaining providence. The goalposts kept moving.

If you wanted to go by metrics, St. John’s would have been your choice with a NET ranking of 32. If you wanted high-level wins, Seton Hall beat Connecticut and Marquette. If the number of Quad 1 wins was significant, the selection is providence. That none of the three at the First Four in Dayton were given a chance to play in the main bracket is mind-boggling. The Big East’s slow response is similar. It was a severe slap while sitting.

So now it comes down to the three big teams of Connecticut, Creighton and Marquette, these three teams could all make the Final Four in Phoenix. Three teams will now have to stand up for their league as the powers that be have opted not to do so.

After a great tournament, it’s been a brutal few days for the Big East. These teams desperately need to make a statement with their play over the next few weeks. Prove that the conference should be better. Show it on the court. Take all three teams to the second weekend and at least one to Phoenix. With the television deal with Fox Sports expiring in one year, the league needs a big march at worst.

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