Remember those halcyon days of early January, when it looked like any one of nine teams could win the conference, everybody figured on nine NCAA tournament bids and wondered if somebody like a Providence or a Cincinnati could sneak in and make it 10?
Yeah. Hasn't worked out that way.
Right now, it looks like there are four teams capable of winning the conference title -- maybe five, if Villanova stays hot. And in the latest Joe Lunardi Bracketology breakdown on ESPN.com, the Big East is a seven-bid league, one bid behind the ACC, which has eight teams in the projected NCAA tournament field:
*Connecticut and Pitt have #1 seeds.
*Louisville has a #2 seed.
*Marquette has a #3 seed.
*Villanova has a #4 seed.
*Syracuse has a #7 seed (even though their only decent wins are Memphis and West Virginia, they benefit from their relatively easy conference schedule and their embarrassingly easy out-of-conference schedule, but we're not bitter or anything...)
*West Virginia has a #8 seed.
And that's it, folks. Lunardi lists Cincinnati and (sniff) Georgetown on his "First Four Out" list, which means either or both could find their way into the field with strong finishes. And he lists Providence on his "Next Four Out" list, which means the Friars could get in with a monster finish (they probably have to go 2-1 in their games against Louisville, Pitt and Villanova while winning all the rest of their games, something like that).
Notre Dame is nowhere to be found.
Conclusions? Could be that the mid-pack conference teams (Georgetown, Notre Dame...) weren't as good as we thought they were. Could be that some perceived back-of-the-pack teams (Cincinnati, Providence, Seton Hall...) were a lot better than we thought they were. Regardless, there's a lot more definition in the Big East standings than we expected there to be on Feb. 10. We'll see if the next four weeks can do anything to flip it upside down.