I actually brought this up a couple of weeks ago on the eve of the Big East tournament when it was pointed out that someone had suggested that the Big East was vastly overrated because it had not produced a national champion since Connecticut and Syracuse won back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004. Now, if you're judging which conference has the best team each year, that's obviously true.
Few, though, have ever maintained that the Big East had the best team or teams every year. The point that is lost on those who would argue that the league is overrated is that the argument is not who has the best team - the tournament decides that - but which is the most difficult to play in.
The Big East still wins that one without qualification or argument, and even this year's NCAA tournament results serve to prove the point.
The Big East had seven teams that were good enough to make the NCAA tournament and win at least one game. The Big Ten had five, the ACC, Big 12 and Pac 10 three.
The two teams that made it to the Sweet 16 finished tied for ninth in the Big East. They lost as many league games as they won (both were 9-9) and didn't even get byes in the conference tournament.
Marquette was the 11th seed in the Big East tournament and an 11th seed in the NCAA tournament. Most leagues in the country don't even have 11 teams and in the Big East No. 11 is good enough to beat a sixth seed in the NCAA tournament.
St. John's was one-and-done in the NCAA tournament, but beat two of the NCAA's four No. 1 seeds (Duke and Pitt) during the season, as well as a No. 2 (Notre Dame) and a No. 3 (Connecticut). The Red Storm finished as the fifth seed in the Big East.
You want comparisons to other top-flight teams? Big East teams played seven games this season against non-conference teams that were ranked in the Top 10 at the time the game was played. The league was 6-1 in those games. Big East teams played non-conference games against teams from 29 other leagues in the regular season, had a winning record against 27 of them (including every power conference) and was .500 against the other two.
The point is not that the Big East has the best teams in the country this year or any year, but that it has more of the best teams, and that navigating the season is a bear.
Even a lousy - relatively lousy, that is - performance in the NCAA tournament, in which seven league teams win games and two teams from the lower half of the standings make the Sweet 16, manages to illustrate that point.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.