The Big East had a great season, but still second to the ACC

April 10, 2009 |

There’s no doubt that the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) and the Big East are the best conferences for college basketball, largely because the best basketball players in the country are bred on the east coast. New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, D.C., and Virginia are the pipelines. Both conferences had the same amount of national titles (10), before the North Carolina Tar Heels won it all on Monday night against the Michigan State Spartans, and nearly half of the top 25 teams in the country were from them. But the million dollar question is; which conference is better? The ACC, hands down.

The Big East is larger than the ACC because they have more teams, 16 for the Big East and 12 for the ACC. With more teams, it’s assumed that the Big East should have more power than the ACC, but the Big East have more bad teams compared to the ACC. Both conferences are top heavy, but the bottom teams for the ACC are far better than the Big East’s. In fact, the ACC won the head-to-head match ups this season, 9-7. The odd part is that most of the Big East “big time teams”, UCONN, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Marquette did not play the big dawgs of the ACC. Georgetown and Notre Dame tried, but got smashed, losing at combined average of 12 points. UCONN, Pittsburgh and Marquette challenged three ACC teams, no major squads, and the average margin of victories was 8 points. Mainly because UCONN defeated Miami by 13, WOW!

The Tar Heels and the Duke Blue Devils are the cream of the crop for not only the ACC, but for all of college basketball. Since the Tar Heels and the Blue Devils are in the ACC, they set the standard for the conference and if the other ACC teams don’t keep up with them, Maryland, Wake Forest, Florida State to name a few, they won’t compete. Since the other teams in the ACC can compete with the Tar Heels and Blue Devils, teams outside of the conference aren’t much of a problem. For the Big East, it’s just who is hot for that season.

Both conferences had seven teams in the field of 64 and all the top seeds (three from the Big East, UConn, Pittsburgh and Louisville, and one from the ACC, North Carolina) made it to the sweet sixteen. And for the ACC and Big East making it to the second week is garbage. Getting to the Final Four is the biggest prize, besides winning it all, and for the past twenty-years, (coming into this season) the Big East only had six representatives, while the ACC had twenty. UConn and Villanova made it for the Big East, while North Carolina made it for the ACC to the Final Four. It was mentioned that both conferences has ten titles each coming into the dance, but with the additions to the conferences a few years ago, the Big East inherited five, Cincinnati with two, Louisville with two and Marquette’s.

Since wins and losses in the field of 64 determine the success of conferences, the ACC is clearly the best conference in the 24-year 64 team tournament era. Before the start of the tournament, the ACC is number one with a .669 winning percentage among all the conferences with the Big East’s .620 winning percentage. According to PASE (Performance Against Seed Expectations), the ACC is above the Big East and the other four major conferences. PASE compares the total number of wins a conference attains to the number its seeding dictates that it should achieve. PASE is calculated by tallying the positive or negative differences between actual and expected wins at each seed position. In translation, the teams or conferences that are expected to win, succeeds most of the time. The ACC leading with +.160 and the Big East are second with +.148.

The Big East and the ACC have a great history and legendary players. The Big East greats like Patrick Ewing and Allen Iverson (Georgetown), Chris Mullin (St. John’s), Pearl Washington (Syracuse), Ray Allen (UCONN) – to name a few – are well known. But the ACC’s tradition is richer with the greatest college basketball rivalry, Duke vs. North Carolina, and there’s not enough ink to record their legendary players – besides, no telling how many more legendary players would have came through the ACC if certain superstars in the NBA had went to college.

The Big East is overrated, but they did have a better regular season than the ACC and deserves the high seeds, the first time in NCAA history to have three teams from one conference to have had number one seeds. The Spartans beat down two Big East teams that were number one seeds, Louisville and UConn, then got destroy by the eventual national champions, Tar Heels (the fifth title for the school). The Big East is a great conference, no doubt, but before you Big East fans get hyped up and jump out on a limb because of a good season, take a parachute so you can see the stuff that was laid before you land in it. After all, in the big picture, the Big East is still, second best.