Breaking Down Exactly How Colossally Terrible Thursday Was For the Big East

The Big East went 1-3 on the first day of the NCAA tournament, and the only win – while a win is a win is a win – came in overtime when No. 2 Villanova held off No. 15 Robert Morris to advance to the second round. And let's face it, even as someone who has been stumping for the Big East all season, it looked pretty obvious that the referees in that game were giving Villanova the benefit of the doubt. Scottie Reynolds led the Wildcats in scoring with 20 points – off the bench – on 2-15 shooting from the field and 15-16 from the line. If a Robert Morris player did so much as cough near Reynolds in the second half, the All-American ended up at the line. It got so bad at the end of the game that RMU coach Mike Rice took off his jacket and walked away from the bench, which led CBS announcer Verne Lundquist to suggest Rice was leaving. And who could blame him at that point? ↵

↵Villanova won 73-70 in overtime, over a 15-seed, and that was the best result the conference had on day one of the tournament. The rest was just ugly. Notre Dame, the 6-seed in the South, lost to Old Dominion, 51-50, when a put-back by All-American Luke Harangody cut the three-point lead down to one as time expired. It was just the second basket of the day for Harangody on 2-9 shooting. Notre Dame took three free throws in the entire game and went 6-26 from beyond the arc. ↵

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↵Marquette, the 6-seed in the East, lost a squeaker to Washington in the final seconds as well. Marquette actually shot the ball rather well, going 27-51 from the field, including 12-19 from three, and hit 12 of 15 free throws. They just couldn't stop Washington, allowing the Huskies to score 16 points above what Marquette was giving up per game this season. ↵

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↵And then there's third-seeded Georgetown, who lost 97-83 to an Ohio team that didn't even have a winning record in its conference. If you didn't watch the game – as CBS rightly dumped it in several big markets – it wasn't even as close as the final score. Thanks to Villanova's late-game heroics yesterday, the Georgetown loss may be the worst for a conference team since 1991, when second-seeded Syracuse lost to Richmond. Actually, that Richmond game was at least a four-point game, so with the combination of seeding and disparity in score, Thursday's Georgetown loss could be the worst loss the Big East has ever had in the NCAA tournament. ↵

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↵But was it the worst day in the Big East's illustrious history in the NCAA tournament? ↵

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↵One could make the case that last year's Final Four was the worst in Big East history, with two teams losing in their respective National Semifinal games, cementing the fact that a conference with three top seeds in the tournament didn't have one team in the Championship game. That said, it was the Final Four, so the disappointment did still include some pretty swanky banners to hang. ↵

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↵Thursday was just the second time since 1985 – when the conference sent three teams to the Final Four – that the Big East lost three opening-round NCAA Tournament games on the same day. In 2006, the Big East lost three teams on the first day of the tournament, but none of those teams was ranked higher than a five seed and one team – No. 10 Seton Hall – would not have been favored to win based on the seeding. The Big East teams that lost on Thursday were all expected – based on seeding – to advance to the second round. ↵

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↵The Big East has four teams playing on Friday and, with a sweep of the remaining opening-round games, the conference still has a chance to salvage a successful first round. There could be a bit of added pressure on the remaining four teams today, even if they may not feel it on the court. Since 1985 – the year the tournament expanded to 64 teams – the Big East has never sent less than half their tournament teams into at least the second round. ↵

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↵With No. 1, 2, 3 and 9 seeds still left to play in the first round – including two more serious Final Four contenders in West Virginia and Syracuse – the chances for the Big East advancing at least four teams to the second round, and beyond, still seem high. But all four teams were expected to advance on Thursday and we saw how that worked out. Today could be a very interesting day for the Big East. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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