Syracuse. West Virginia. Connecticut. Not that Pittsburgh sports fans are overly invested in the fate of the Big East anymore, but for the second consecutive year, the conference risks triggering a national discussion about whether its basketball teams are overrated.
Big East teams are again very well-represented in March Madness (there are nine). But they posted mediocre performances in the early rounds of last year's NCAA Tournament, leading to a ton of gloating and concern-trolling from fans of rival conferences. The fact that UConn ended up winning the national championship quelled a lot of that talk. But this year, we might start to hear it again.
First, there was Syracuse's much-discussed matchup against No. 16 seed UNC-Asheville, in which the Orange rode some very weird officiating to a 72-65 victory. Then there was No. 10 seed West Virginia, which sleepwalked its way to a 77-54 loss to No. 7 Gonzaga. Then there was UConn, last year's champion, which lost to Iowa State, 77-64, in a game that was never all that close.
Okay, true -- Syracuse actually did win. So did No. 3 Marquette, which trounced No. 14 BYU, 88-68. No. 4 Louisville did beat No. 13 Davidson 69-62, although maybe not by the decisive margin you'd hope for. And there's an entirely new crop of Big East schools (Cincinnati taking on Texas, Georgetown against Belmont, Notre Dame playing Xavier, South Florida taking on Temple) who will be in action on Friday. If you're a Big East fan, you're probably hoping they do well, in part because they ought to -- all except USF are higher seeds. If there are a couple more upsets in Friday's games, the mockery from last season will be deafening yet again.