Just months after Breitbart Sports was criticized for “pretending” the Big East was almost an elite conference, Villanova improved the conference to 8-4 in the tournament — behind only the ACC (18-5) and doing it by beating a team from the only other conference with a winning record (Big 12) by a record margin 95-51.
Yet the criticism was quite harsh when Breitbart Sports noted back in December that the conference was making it’s mark:
The idea that the current Big East is a “beachhead” against the contracts ESPN currently enjoys I think is flawed. Frankly, if the Big East wasn’t on FS1, I suspect you wouldn’t be expending so much effort pretending that it was on the cusp of being an elite conference.
And yet, pretending the Big East is not even “on the cusp” of being an elite conference is truly flawed. Top to bottom, www.kenpom.com showed the Big East was easily better than the Pac-12, SEC, Big Ten, or any of the other 31 conferences except for the Big 12 (first) and ACC (second).
As noted in the Elite 8 preview, the Big East and Big 12 were playing for second best conference, and Value Add Basketball showed Villanova was the only team in the country with four top 200 players (top 5% of 4000+). Having that many options helped Villanova shoot better than any other school — as the 1985 Villanova squad was the only other team to ever shoot over 70 percent from the floor.
While the ACC is hurt by a few bad teams, the 15-team conference has been the best in the tournament at 18-5 going into the championship game Monday. It is No. 1 by far based on the number of great teams.
Xavier and Butler also won tournament games and went into the final minute with a chance to go to the Sweet 16 in narrow losses. Providence also won, beating USC of the disappointing Pac-12 and playing with UNC for a half before the Tar Heels pulled away.
The season winds down with three conferences as clearly elite. No question the ACC tops them all, but the Big East finishes as the clear No. 2 this season.