Men’s Big East Notebook

Player of the Week: Kemba Walker, junior guard

Walker was supposed to be too tired from five games in five days in the Big East Championship tournament to be successful in the NCAA Tournament, but everyone thought wrong. Walker entered the NCAA Tournament the way he left New York: unconscious.

Walker scored 18 points and added 12 assists in Connecticut’s 81-52 first-round victory over Bucknell and 33 points in Connecticut’s 69-58 victory over Cincinnati Saturday.

Game of the Week: Connecticut vs. San Diego State

San Diego State entered the NCAA Tournament with zero wins in the tournament to its program’s name, while Connecticut was the hottest team in the country entering the bracket.

This matchup features two possible NBA draft lottery selections: San Diego State sophomore forward Kawhi Leonard and Connecticut junior guard Kemba Walker.  Leonard is a double-double machine on the season, averaging 15.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game.


Big East Bows Out Early

The Big East started the NCAA Tournament with 11 teams, which was the most ever from one conference.

But now, only two remain after the first weekend of play wrapped up with No. 10 seed Florida State’s 71-57 defeat of No. 2 seed Notre Dame.

Of the 11 Big East teams in the tournament, only one was a double-digit seed: No. 11 seed Marquette. Ironically, it is one of the two teams left.

The other is No. 3 seed Connecticut, which will play the No. 2 seed San Diego State Aztecs in the Sweet 16.

The Big East was the best conference throughout the entire college basketball season.  Ten teams found themselves in the top 25 at some point in the 2010-‘11 season. No other conference had that many teams who were in the top 25 this season.

Yet when the Sweet 16 begins on Thursday, it will be the ACC that will enter play with the most teams left of any conference with three: Duke, North Carolina and Florida State.  For nine of the 19 weeks of polling, Duke was the only ACC team in either top 25 poll, North Carolina and Virginia Tech were the only two other ACC schools who made appearances in either poll.

It’s not all the Big East’s fault it only has two teams in the Sweet 16. Only nine of the 11 teams could have made the Sweet 16 because of the bracket layout.

Connecticut played Cincinnati and Marquette played Syracuse in the round of 32. The Big East was the only conference through the first three rounds that had two of its teams square off in an NCAA Tournament game.

The Big East also enjoyed other firsts of the 2011 NCAA Tournament that it would have liked to avoid: Pittsburgh was the first No. 1 seed to lose when it fell to No. 8 seed Butler 71-70, Notre Dame was the first No. 2 seed to lose and Syracuse was the first No. 3 seed to lose.

After so much hype about the Big East throughout the season for it to only have two teams in the Sweet 16 has left many scratching their heads as to whether the conference deserved as many invites as it got. Marquette coach Buzz Williams isn’t one of those people.

“I think the resumé of those 11 institutions speak for themselves over the course of Christmas to spring break,” Williams said.