If only DePaul and Georgetown weren’t around. The Big East is comprised of 11 teams, nine of whom are in the top 80 of the KenPom. That’s only marginally behind the SEC (11 in the top 80), the Big Ten (12 in the top 80), and the Big 12 (all 10 in the top 40). The difference is that while the Big 10 and SEC each have an anchor, Minnesota and South Carolina, respectively, the Big East is stuck with both DePaul (147th) and Georgetown (217th). Those two drag the Big East down to fourth in the conference rankings, still holding a gap over the soon to be gutted Pac 12.
Aside from the dreck at the bottom of the conference, the Big East is looking good. Nowhere may this be so evident as in the last week, when UConn has lost twice in conference and plunged all the way to third in the NET and fourth in the KenPom. The teams that beat the Huskies, Xavier and Providence, are now both in the top 30 in KenPom, joining UConn, Creighton, and Marquette.
St. John’s is the only team that hovers near the 80 mark in KP, and they are still a Q2 road game. In fact, so long as you don’t play DePaul or Georgetown, every Big East team is at least a Q2 on the road. There are no easy games or, the two awful teams excepted, resume killers out there when traveling.
This stands in some contrast to earlier in the year. The Big East has slowly pulled itself up from the dregs of mediocrity and is now closer in overall efficiency ranking to being the third best conference than it is to being fifth. Right now according to the bracket matrix there are five Big East teams in the tournament, with two in protected seed spots. That was before Providence beat UConn and undoubtedly aided their resume.
That leaves Butler and maybe Villanova trying to scrap their way back to the edge of bubble. The Bulldogs are closer right now and would make fully half of the conference in the tournament. Is that possible? Butler is 71st in the NET now and has some serious work to do. Nova is even farther back. If you like KenPom more, Seton Hall and Nova could both yet sneak in.
All of that adds up to an unsettled conference that is doing quite well. No easy road games, up to six bids possible, and a plethora of teams in the top 80 means that the Big East is healthy and doing well. Would it be healthier and doing better with Rutgers or Pitt back in the fold instead of DePaul? Sure, but that’s a different conversation for a different day. For now, the Big East will persist in being nine good teams and two really bad ones. That’s better than it looked a month ago.