Big East bemoans NCAA tournament snubs as Rick Pitino backs Seton Hall

Big East bemoans NCAA tournament snubs as Rick Pitino backs Seton Hall

The Big East said it is “very disappointed” over the conference’s historically low number of schools selected for the NCAA tournament, echoing widespread sentiment around the league that multiple teams were snubbed.

The Big East received just three tournament bids — its lowest total since 1993 — on Sunday by the NCAA selection committee, which snubbed a trio of 20-win teams in St. John’s, Seton Hall and Providence.

The league released a lengthy statement Monday night, congratulating its three schools that were selected — UConn, Marquette and Creighton — while joining the chorus of criticism against the NCAA selection committee.

“We have great respect for the NCAA men’s basketball committee and the time and effort that goes into selecting and seeding the teams for the NCAA tournament,” the Big East said as part of its statement. “It is a very challenging job, and we have been advised that this year’s upsets added to the complexity and contributed to the committee’s final bracket selections. Given the high level of play in our league, we are understandably very disappointed that some worthy Big East teams were not selected to participate.

“We will be working closely with our schools in the coming months to best position the Big East next year and to ensure that we continue to be represented in March Madness in a manner befitting our stature as one of the best conferences in college basketball.”

St. John’s coach Rick Pitino, who has been among the most outspoken critics of the lack of Big East teams, took to social media to praise Seton Hall, which finished 20-12 overall and 13-7 in league play. The Pirates became the first team in Big East history to miss the NCAA tournament after finishing at least five games over .500 in conference play.

“I believe in getting better not bitter,” Pitino said Monday night on social media. “I totally believe that six teams from the Big East belonged in the field. I know our players along with Providence are totally disappointed with the decisions made. But not having Seton Hall at 13-7 in BE play with wins over the top teams is flat out wrong!”

Ironically, Pitino and the Red Storm may have prevented Seton Hall from making the NCAA tournament after beating the Pirates 91-72 last week in the Big East tournament quarterfinals.

Seton Hall coach Shaheen Holloway said Sunday that he was “heartbroken for my team” and also questioned the lack of Big East representatives in the NCAA tournament’s 68-team field.

“I still can’t believe only three teams got in from this conference,” he told reporters. “That’s a shame, and it’s disrespectful on every level. It’s disrespectful to the Big East and I think it’s disrespectful to us. In any major conference in the country, you win 13 games and you’re in. What team won 13 games in a major conference that’s not in right now?”

The selection committee said Sunday that Seton Hall was one of the first four teams left out, along with Oklahoma, Pittsburgh and 28-win Indiana State.

NCAA selection committee chairman Charles McClelland said five bids were stolen during the conference tournaments — and one of those was going to go to Indiana State, which fell in the final of the Missouri Valley tournament to Drake.

Despite the snubs, the Big East’s three selections are very high seeds: defending national champion UConn is the top overall seed, while Marquette is a 2-seed and Creighton a 3-seed.

“We are very proud that UConn earned the No. 1 overall seed in this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament following another tremendous season that included both the Big East regular season and tournament titles,” the league said in its statement. “Marquette, a No. 2 seed, and Creighton, a No. 3 seed, give the Big East three of the top 10 overall seeds in the tournament, as many as any other league. We consider each of them legitimate contenders for a Final Four berth and another Big East national crown on April 8th.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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