March 24, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Louisville Cardinals guard Peyton Siva (3) cuts the net after the game in the finals of the west region of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament against the Florida Gators at US Airways Center. The Cardinals defeated the Gators 72-68. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewickel-US PRESSWIRE
For most of the 2011-12 college basketball season, the Big East has been characterized as having a "down year". After starting the season with four teams in the preseason top ten, only Syracuse stayed near the top of the polls. Teams that had high expectations (Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Louisville) stumbled in stretches (or entirely in Pitt's case).
While some teams struggled, others exceeded preseason expectations. Marquette spent most of the season ranked in the top 10, Georgetown was expected to be better, but not nearly as good as it ended up being, Notre Dame overcame a slew of injuries to have a successful regular season, and South Florida made its first trip to the NCAA Tournament in twenty years. While the teams at the top struggling caused many to call this a down year for the Big East, there are plenty of reasons to suggest otherwise.
- The Big East didn't get the record eleven teams into the Tournament that it got last year, but it still got nine teams and did so in a year where St. John's, Pittsburgh, and Villanova, all tournament teams a year ago, did not make the field.
- The Big East still had a number one seed and two number three seeds and the number one seed avoided the early round loss that Pittsburgh endured the year before.
- After starting the season with six teams in AP preseason top 25, there were still four Big East teams ranked in the final AP Poll.
- The Big East had four teams in the Sweet 16, two teams in the Elite Eight, and put one into the Final Four. All far better than last year when the conference was routinely ripped for being overrated.
- Not only did the number one seed, Syracuse, avoid an embarrassing early round loss, virtually all of the higher seeded teams did. It wasn't perfect, but according to Mike Miller with NBC's College Basketball Talk, the Big East did exceed its Performance Against Seed Expectation.
- For the third consecutive season, the Big East Tournament champion advanced to the Final Four.
In all, not bad for a down year.