Winners and losers from the second week of the NCAA Tournament:
Loser: Big 12. We have updated standings for the conferences in NCAA Tournament play. 1. Missouri Valley 5-1; 2. Big Ten 13-6; 3. Big East 11-6; 4. ACC 6-4; 5. Atlantic 10 7-5; 6. SEC 4-3; 7. Pac-12 5-5; 8. West Coast Conference 2-2; 9. Big 12 3-5; 10. Mountain West 2-5.
Hmm. I didn’t mean to make everyone feel so bad about the Big 12, but the truth’s the truth. The Big 12 did not produce in the NCAA Tournament. If you don’t like to rank conferences by winning percentage, rank them by victories. Which means: 1. Big Ten 13; 2. Big East 11; 3. Atlantic-10 7; 4. ACC 6; 5. Missouri Valley and Pac-12 5; 7. SEC 4; 8. Big 12 3; 9. Mountain West and West Coast 2.
So by any measure, the Big 12 was awful in March Madness, and the Kansas meltdown — losing a 14-point lead late against Michigan — was one of the stories of the weekend.
Winner: ACC. Duke got routed by Louisville in the Midwest final, and the truth is, ACC basketball has gotten woefully thin in recent years behind Duke and North Carolina. But help is on the way. Louisville and Syracuse, both headed to the ACC next season, are in the Final Four.
Loser: Big East. Almost Shakespearean that the Big East would quality two teams for the Final Four, and both are headed out the door, walking out on not just the old-line Big East (the Catholic 7 plus some newcomers that will retain the Big East name) but the leftovers from the Big East that will become, apparently, the America 12 Conference. The Final Four will not be a celebration of Big East hoops; it will be a reminder of what once was great but is breaking apart.
Winner: Mid-majors. For the fifth time in the last eight NCAA Tournaments, a mid-major has made the Final Four. Take a bow, Wichita State. The Shockers join Butler in 2011 and 2010, Virginia Commonwealth in 2010 and George Mason in 2006. And all kinds of worthy mid-majors still are capable, Gonzaga chief among them.
Loser: Distinctions. It’s going to be harder to distinguish between majors and mid-majors. The future Big East is adding Xavier, Creighton and Butler to the core of Marquette, DePaul, Georgetown, St. John’s, Providence, Villanova and Seton Hall. Does that mean Butler and Creighton and Xavier no longer are mid-majors? Is any school without Division I-A football a mid-major? And what of the America 12? You can’t call Connecticut a mid-major. But can you call Tulane and Tulsa majors, even though they will share a league with UConn?
Winner: Big Ten. Failing to produce a Final Four team would have been wrenching for the Big Ten, which had such a banner regular season and was really good the first two rounds of the tournament. (Remember, I refuse to call the play-in games the first round.) Michigan needed a big rally against Kansas to stay alive, but stay alive the Wolverines did, upholding the honor of the conference.