The landscape of college athletics has changed significantly over the past several years, and the Big East has been the primary target of larger conferences looking to poach schools for the sake of expansion. But while many of the schools in the Big East aren’t the same that they used to be, the conference itself hasn’t changed; it was built on the foundation of being a strong basketball conference and as it moves into a new era, it will remain a strong basketball conference.
The Big East has been the pre-eminent basketball conference in the country for the last five-plus years, and it’s obviously going to be impossible to retain that status with the losses of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame to the ACC. However, what remains of the Big East is a group of 10 schools that have either a rich basketball history or a recent string of success, and all 10 have a promising future on the basketball court.
Among the teams remaining in the Big East, Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova stand out the most. All three have been to the Final Four within the past decade, and Georgetown and Marquette are both among the top-five in Big East conference wins over the last eight seasons, while Villanova has the fifth-most wins in conference play over the past decade.
Newcomer Butler is no stranger success either, playing in the national title game twice in the last four tournaments. The same can be said for Xavier, who has been to the Sweet 16 four times in the last six years. The final addition to The Big East, Creighton, has been to the NCAA tournament each of the past two seasons, winning their first-round game each time.
Forgotten in the shuffle of the old Big East were schools like St. John’s, Providence and DePaul, but all of those schools have young and talented rosters that have a chance to make big strides this year and in the future. They will benefit from being a part of the Big East brand without being overshadowed by the powerhouse programs that are no longer in the conference.
Gone are the perennial Final Four contenders like Syracuse, Louisville and Connecticut, but what remains is a conference that would make the late Dave Gavitt, the founder of The Big East, proud. Despite a significant amount of turnover within the league, the Big East should remain one of the more powerful basketball conferences in the country with an incredible amount of depth for a 10-team league.
By season’s end, half of the league, if not more, should be in the NCAA Tournament, with a few of the teams having a legitimate chance of making a deep run. The teams in the league may have changed, but the Big East remains the same: it’s still one of the best basketball conferences in the country, and will be for a long time.