Charles Barkley debates Rick Pitino about the Big East [video]

Rick Pitino joined the March Madness coverage and got into a little debate with Charles Barkely, who obviously isn’t a big fan of the Big East.

I love Pitino’s statement at 0:50 that “Notre Dame will not lose tonight” (to Florida St., whom they did lose to…badly).

The Big East is currently 9-9 in the tourney with two teams still alive (UConn and Marquette). Based purely on seeding, we would expect the conference to be 14-6 with five teams (Pitt, Notre Dame, Louisville, Syracuse and UConn) still alive. Barkley is right that the Big East didn’t have a powerhouse team like the Big Ten (Ohio St.) or the Big 12 (Kansas) does, but it is a good conference top to bottom. Marquette is a good example. They beat a solid Xavier team and then upset Syracuse. Sure, it would be more impressive had they beaten a non-Big East team to make it to the Sweet 16, but it’s still an impressive run for an 11-seed.

If UConn and Marquette go quietly into the dark night against SDSU and North Carolina, respectively, then we can really wonder about the conference’s strength, but if UConn wins and Marquette gives the Tar Heels a good game, isn’t that enough?

It’s interesting — when Barkley made that comment about the Big East having solid but unspectacular players, I looked at a first round mock over at NBADraft.net, and the only Big East player projected to go in the first round is Kemba Walker. (There are six Big East players projected to go in the second round.) DraftExpress also shows one first rounder (Walker) and six second rounders.

Jay Bilas probably summed it up best on Twitter:

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