NCAA first round a rare obstacle for Big East
Much of the headlines from Thursday's opening day of the NCAA Tournament have focused on the Big East's three upset losses, with Georgetown, Notre Dame and Marquette all losing to lower seeds. Looking at the league's history, the poor showing stands out because it's a round the conference usually dominates.
Since the NCAA field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, the Big East has never had a losing record in an opening round, and has never lost more than three games in any opening round. Both are in jeopardy today, as the Big East sends out four more teams -- Syracuse, West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Louisville -- hoping to improve on a 1-3 mark Thursday.
A trivia question, first: There are five current Big East teams that have not lost in the NCAA first round as a Big East school since 1985. Who are they? Answer at the bottom.
Georgetown's opening-round loss Thursday is all the more impressive because the Hoyas have a share of the Big East's best opening-round record since 1985 -- Georgetown and Connecticut were both 15-1 entering this postseason. Syracuse has the most opening-round wins since '85, with a 16-4 record.
Those three programs were 46-6 in the first round, and the league as a whole was 105-32 in the past 25 opening rounds. Only one Big East program had a losing record in the opening round -- Providence, which is 2-5. Marquette now joins the Friars, dropping to 2-3 with Thursday's loss; Miami was 2-2 before leaving for the ACC
Your full rundown, from best to worst, entering this season: Louisville is 3-0 (there's one of your five); Connecticut and Georgetown 15-1, Boston College was 7-1 before bolting for the ACC, Syracuse 16-4, Notre Dame and West Virginia, 4-1, Seton Hall, 7-2, Villanova and Pittsburgh 10-4, St. John's 8-4, Marquette and Miami 2-2, Providence 2-5.
And your other four teams yet to make the first round as Big East members since 1985: Cincinnati, DePaul, Rutgers and USF. For something closer to an apples-to-apples deal on the Conference USA schools, Louisville is 14-4 in opening round since '85, Cincinnati is 12-2, DePaul 5-4, Marquette 5-5, USF 0-2. (Three other schools joined the Big East basketball ranks in 1995-96, so Notre Dame was 3-3 before that, West Virginia 1-3, Rutgers 0-2).
This concludes the gratuitous research portion of today's blog. ...