Posted By Buzz
In order for the Big East to remain a power conference in the college basketball landscape there are a few things it must accomplish. As a Non-BCS conference there will be constant scrutiny from the general public that the league will fade into the Atlantic 10 and lose its luster. Also, it doesn’t help that ESPN gives the league little credibility or publicity because of the contract with Fox Sports 1. With that said, there is no reason the Big East still can’t be one of the premier college basketball leagues in America there are just a few things it must be able to achieve.
Winning Fixes Everything: In order to be discussed as one of the top leagues this nation has, it must perform like it on a national scale. People are quick to point out how many teams a conference gets to the NCAA Tournament as a gauge for success, but I disagree. Remember the Mountain West last year? They got 4 bids in the field of 68! The league was praised for its strength nationally that they may be challenging the PAC 12 as the best league along the Pacific. Then what happened? 3 seed New Mexico lost in the first round, Boise State lost in the first 4, Colorado State and San Diego State both won one game and were bounced in the round of 32. 4 bids is an accomplishment, but when 0 of those teams play in the second weekend it is all for naught. Therefore, the conference would much prefer having 1 bid and that team making a deep run, than many bids without success. So I would urge you to judge the success of the Big East not by making the dance, but making a name for itself once it gets there. Granted, more bids gives more opportunity for success, but it’s only the first piece of the puzzle.
Recruit, Recruit, Recruit: This is where the ESPN bias hurts the most. It seems overly simple, but if the Big East could continue to attract top level talent it can still be a top level league. Sure there may be a certain percentage of high school athletes that want to be on ESPN and be on Sports Center nightly and this will dissuade them from the conference; however, I believe having a “Basketball Focused” power conference can be equally as attractive in the other direction. There are great basketball programs at every BCS conference, but each school relies on Football to bring in the money. This naturally makes hoops the second sport for the Athletic Director and not the first.
Anyway, in its first season recruiting as a new conference the Big East has proved to be extremely effective. Out of ESPN’s top 40 recruiting classes as of January 31st (oh the irony in using ESPN as my source,) 6 of the teams in the conference are on this list. These teams are Georgetown, Seton Hall, Xavier, Marquette, Providence, and Villanova. The 6 only trails the ACC and SEC who both have 7 teams and is tied with the Big 10 who also has 6. Beyond that, 4 of these team’s fall on the Scout.com top 25. What’s most impressive about this number to me is that St. John’s isn’t on it. Historically the Red Storm are one of the better recruiting programs not only in the conference but in the country. Even without them in the rankings (they have pretty much their whole roster returning for 2014-15) it shows the promise in the whole conference.
Coaching Destinations: In the college basketball landscape it is natural for talented, young coaches to try and climb the latter to a top tier program. Eventually they get their dream job, and try to stay there forever (ala Coach K or Jim Boeheim). It is one thing when a coach leaves to take a top job in the country (Kentucky, Indiana, Duke, Arizona etc.), but if Big East coaches start leaving for middle tier BCS conference jobs it spells trouble. John Thompson III and Jay Wright have both made themselves staples of the Georgetown and Villanova programs respectively, but will other teams join? Only time will tell. The key is the young coaching talent in the Big East. Will these guys be trying to make a career at their current programs or will they be moving on? Ed Cooley at Providence, Chris Mack at Xavier, and Buzz Williams at Marquette are the first 3 that come to mind. If they stay at their schools and build programs then the Big East will be a force to be reckoned with for a long time, but if they are looking to get out of dodge as soon as possible it could damage the image of the Big East and make us fall lower on the totem pole.
Like this post? Help us get the word out and tell your friends to follow @BEandBeyond on Twitter!