The Big Ten and Big East have been ranked the two best leagues in college basketball this season, but they need to deliver on the hype.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Big Ten coaches argue their league has been the best conference in college basketball this season. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said he couldn't wait to jump into the NCAA Tournament play so his team didn't have to play another Big Ten game for at least one weekend.
That produced a round of head shaking from the Big East. Coaches there believe their league is the ultimate in Big-Boy Basketball. Louisville. Georgetown. Syracuse. You know the list.
The next three weeks will feed the debate with high-octane evidence. Big Ten vs. Big East matchups will inevitably crackle across the board. There are 15 teams from the two power conferences stuffed into the NCAA Tournament bracket.
Here is what I'll argue: It's time for both leagues to prove they're as dynamic as they think they are. Lately, their hoops have not been matching their hype.
The track record shows that hasn't happened the way it was supposed to happen over the last five seasons. I've X-rayed the brackets. Neither league has been winning as many NCAA Tournament games are they're supposed to be winning, especially if they play the best basketball in the land.
Consider this: In the last five NCAA Tournaments stretching from 2008-to-2012, the Big East put 43 teams in the party. More than half – 23 or 53.5 percent – underperformed their seed expectation.
In other words, they exited the tournament sooner than seeding projected that they would. I'm talking about programs like Georgetown. The Hoyas have checked out early against teams with lower seeds the last three seasons. The world will be watching John Thompson's club. Closely.
Only eight Big East teams – 18.6 percent – overperformed their seed expectation.
The numbers for the Big Ten are better. The league has sent 29 teams to the tournament, and nine (31 percent) underperformed their seeding. On the plus side, 24 percent (seven teams) overperformed.
The overall tournament winning percentages for the leagues? For Big East teams, it's 60 percent (63-42), marginally better than the Big Ten's 58.6 percent (41-29).
The Big Ten has a more pressing issue – getting teams to the Final Four and winning the title. That's what all this silliness is about, right?
Michigan State, Tom Izzo and Mateen Cleaves won the league's last NCAA title in 2000. The numbers are actually worse than that. For the Big Ten, make it one championship since Michigan delivered in 1989.
Over the last five seasons, the Big Ten has sent three teams to the Final Four, the Big East five.
The Big East, Atlantic Coast and Southeastern conferences have each produced three national champs in the last decade – with the 10th winner coming from the Big 12 (Kansas).
What is the outlook for 2013?
The average seed for the eight Big East teams is 5.5. Everybody except Villanova and Cincinnati is projected to win at least one game. Georgetown and Louisville are considered legitimate national championship contenders.
Expectations are even greater for the Big Ten. Six of the league's seven NCAA teams are seeded as first-round winners, and the seventh team, Minnesota, an 11 seed, is actually favored to defeat UCLA in its tournament opener.
Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Indiana are all popular picks to move through their regionals, and President Obama picked Tom Crean's IU squad to win the national title.
The average Big Ten seed is an impressive 4.7.
But once the serious dribbling begins, you can put the numbers away. This season is time for both leagues to deliver on the hype.