Tournament regulars do a turnabout

Remember when.

Remember when year in and year out the Big East was one of the most feared conferences in men’s college basketball and teams such as Georgetown and St. John’s were major players in the NCAA Tournament.

Now those same two programs were tied for seventh place in a league of 10 members entering Wednesday night’s schedule. St. John’s owns a record of 13-9 and has won two straight games, but is winless in five tries against opponents ranked in the top 50.

At 12-9, the outlook for Georgetown is better after going 7-8 against opponents ranked in the top 150.

Staying on college basketball’s where have you gone theme, take a look at the rough-and-tumble Big Ten Conference. Most would figure either Penn State, Northwestern or Nebraska to occupy the basement. On the contrary. Illinois has lost eight straight and is bringing up the rear in the conference at 2-8.

It only seems like yesterday, the Fighting Illini and area product Deron Williams were playing North Carolina for the 2005 national title.

In keeping with nostalgia, does Bimbo Coles and Virginia Tech ring a bell? How about coach Al Maguire and Marquette? Here’s another one – coach Gene Keady and Purdue? Just three examples of teams that used to make earning a berth in the National Tournament an annual event.

Not the case this year. At 1-8, Virginia Tech is dead last in the Atlantic Coast Conference following eight straight losses. We’re talking about a 15-team league.

Even under the current leadership of Buzz Williams, playing Marquette was no walk in the park. Nowadays, the Golden Eagles are scratching and clawing to stay above .500. At 5-5, they are fifth in the Big East and 12-10 overall.

Which brings us to Purdue. The court is named after Keady for good reason. Big Ten contenders year after year, the Boilermakers under coach Matt Painter haven’t quite found their niche. Following four consecutive defeats, they are hovering just above the Illini at 13-9 and 3-6 in the Big Ten.

How about turning back the clock even further. The glory days of Loyola-Marymount with Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble are a distant memory. Especially with this year’s version of the Lions tied for last place in the West Coast Conference at 3-8 and 11-12 overall.

Whatever happened at DePaul once coach Ray Meyer retired in 1984? The experiment to bring in his son, Joey Meyer, as his successor never materialized and the program never has reached a similar stature.

This season, the Blue Demons are tied for last in the Big East at 2-8 and 10-13 overall. In seven tries, they have failed to win against a team ranked in the top 50.

And then there’s my favorite Cinderella of all. Who can forget No. 16 seed Princeton nearly upsetting top-ranked Georgetown in the opening round of the 1989 NCAA Tournament? Coach Pete Carril was the author of originality for his style of offense.

The current Princeton ballclub, however, is in danger of not advancing to the postseason. Currently the Tigers are 12-5, but 0-3 in the Ivy League which does not conduct a conference tournament.

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