First Season In the Books: How Did The Big East Do?

Rewind to Big East media day, October 16, 2013. Val Ackerman, the Big East’s new commissioner said the following to the media: “There’s no doubt the eyes of the basketball world and the eyes of others in college sports are definitely on the Big East.”

How true those words would be. And not surprisingly, the “eyes of the basketball world” were quick to be negative. Without the backing of ESPN, the Big East was constantly knocked and, even when good things happened, not given its full due. It was not an ideal first season for this new basketball-centric league. Marquette and Georgetown were picked 1 and 2 in the Big East Preseason Coaches’ Poll. Many thought that it was crucial for Marquette, a team that has had a good run of success since joining the conference in 2005, and especially Georgetown, a school that was a big part of the original Big East’s foundation, to be successful both in the conference and nationally. Injuries and lack of on court chemistry seemed to do in both the Golden Eagles and Hoyas as the teams would finish 6th and 7th after 18 regular season games. Only two teams were ranked heading into the Big East Tournament and there was a concern that those two teams might even be the only schools to make the NCAA Tournament.

You Only Get One First Impression


Despite how things looked heading into the Big East Tournament, 4 teams ended up making the Big Dance. The results of those 4 were not exactly fantastic on the national stage. Xavier was relegated to a 12 seed and a First Round play-in game which they would lose to NC State. Providence got the worst seed ever for a Big East champion as an 11 and matched up against an up and down North Carolina team. The game was arguably the most exciting one of the first few days of the tournament but ultimately PC fell to North Carolina despite Bryce Cotton’s 36 points. Villanova and Creighton both made it to the round of 32 but that’s where their journey’s would end. Nova would fall to former Big East foe UConn and Creighton put up a stinker against Baylor.

On the brightside, Providence’s Bryce Cotton was named an Associated Press Honorable Mention All American while Creighton’s Doug McDermott was named to the AP’s First Team All America and is the favorite to win the Wooden Award.

 What’s Next

All the expansion talk is premature. The first season wasn’t exactly an overwhelming success with teams in the Elite 8 and Final 4 but I think it’s clear to anyone that isn’t negatively biased that this league is a very strong basketball conference. The partnership with Fox Sports 1 allows the schools to take a deep breath after the realignment stresses of the last few years. But these schools don’t have too much time to relax. A key will be each school must continue to beef up their out of conference schedules and keep recruiting at a high level. Right now, including Marquette players who are still signed with them, the Big East has the 3rd most top 100 players signed, 17 per Scout.com recruiting rankings behind only the ACC and SEC. That will help.

Expansion?

It will also help if Steve Wojciechowski can retain the 2014 class at Marquette and bring that program back from their worst season since joining the Big East in 2005. He has strong ties in the AAU community and word is that he had much more involvement in recruiting at Duke than it may have appeared from the outside.

It was pretty obvious throughout this first Big East season for the Butler Bulldogs that they need to get some Big East big men. Andrew Chrabascz had a solid freshman campaign and they are returning the Big East’s leading rebounder in Kameron Woods but their frontline was manhandled at times this season.

Brandon Miller will have to right the ship in Indy as they have had a few transfers but it appears that in the short term, they are in the mix for some high major transfers in former NC State point guard, Tyler Lewis and former West Virginia shooting guard, Eron Harris. Both players are sophomores and will have two years of eligibility left after sitting next season per transfer rules. The jury is still out on Miller and the Bulldogs but they have a history that goes further back than Brad Stevens so I think they will eventually get there but may need a few more years to get a Big East roster. Let’s not forget that prior to joining the Atlantic 10 last season, they were in the Horizon league.

In addition to a new school like Butler getting up to speed, it would be really helpful if an original Big East member, DePaul, could figure things out. The new arena they are getting will help but it’s still not exactly  just off campus. Chicago is obviously a fertile recruiting ground but the Blue Demons have struggled to get any momentum going. Oliver Purnell was given another year, at least, to try to turn the corner. They do have some nice pieces returning in Billy Garret, Jr. – the Big East Rookie of the Year – and Tommy Hamilton IV.

Losing Semaj Christon to the NBA draft will hurt Xavier but Chris Mack has 3 of those 17 top 100 recruits coming in next season and will look to stay in the top 4. Xavier needs to step up and pay Mack though. He seems to still be making Atlantic 10 money and if they are serious about keeping him around – he’s been mentioned with the Wake Forest opening – they need to pay him accordingly.

It’s likely that Creighton is due for a downturn and it’s easy to see why since they are losing one of the best college basketball players of all time in Doug McDermott but the fans in Omaha are behind that program and Greg McDermott will restock shooters and get that offense humming again.

Seton Hall had a rough season with injuries, suspensions and some team chemistry issues but getting to the Big East Tournament semifinals while upsetting Villanova along the way, should serve as good momentum to go along with the impressive recruiting class that Kevin Willard is bringing in next season headlined by potential Big East Rookie of the Year candidate in Isaiah Whitehead.

St. John’s really needs to figure out a way to get all their great athletes to play basketball. The embarrassing effort in the first round loss against Robert Morris in the NIT in front of just a shade over 1,000 fans at Carnesseca Arena was not how Steve Lavin wanted to head into the offseason especially when, only a month or so ago, a contract extension was apparently being discussed. Rysheed Jordan seemed to be the key to the Red Storm’s success so getting him to continue to grow will be key. Losing Jakarr Sampson to the NBA (can anyone say D-league?) will hurt but Lavin always manages to pull some impact Spring commitments out of his…hat.

Georgetown likely has the best incoming recruiting class of any team in the conference and will look to get back to the top of the Big East despite losing point guard, Markel Starks and 4 year glue guy, Nate Lubick. I expect Josh Smith will return to action next season and likely will have lost even more weight. I expect the Hoyas to be a top 4 team in the Big East next season.

Villanova will have to deal with the loss of James Bell and Tony Chennault to graduation but everyone else is back and they will add a pair of top 100 players to the mix in Mikal Bridges and Phil Booth. Look for Villanova to be the preseason #1 in the Big East Coaches’ Poll.

Finally, the defending Big East Tournament Champion Friars of Providence College will have to deal with losing All American, Bryce Cotton and fiery big man, Kadeem Batts. They have a very good recruiting class coming in and McDonald’s All American, Kris Dunn will be ready to play after his second shoulder surgery in two years. The Friars are still in the market for two more guards to add to their 2014 class that already includes 3 top 100 players. It’s likely that they will target a 5th year transfer or junior college player for at least 1 of those spots because they need one of those scholarships to be able to contribute right away in 2014-2015. Ed Cooley might not know what to do with all the depth he has on paper right now but I’m sure he’ll figure something out.

What Does It All Mean?

The Big East in it’s current form is certainly not the Big East of 2013. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. All the talk that the Atlantic 10 might be on par or even better than the Big East because they got 6 teams into the NCAA Tournament is beyond ludicrous. The roster’s from top to bottom in the Big East are on a different level than the Atlantic 10.

But I digress.

The Big East is no longer the best basketball conference in the country. But I’m fine with that. Having the Fox Sports 1 money certainly doesn’t hurt but philosophically, I love the Big East in its current form. I love that the schools are all on the same page and that they are concerned with making sure their core values as athletic programs and academic institutions are shared among all member schools. I also love the 10 team format that produces a round robin schedule where every team plays a home and home with each other.

Expansion will eventually happen because Fox will want it and it may help down the line with getting more teams in the NCAA Tournament which would result in more NCAA Tournament units to share among the conference members. But until expansion happens, I’ll enjoy playing in historic Hinkle Fieldhouse every year and in front of 19,000 fans in Omaha every year along with all the other arenas in the conference.

So things are a little different in the Big East these days but I’ll paraphrase Mark Twain in saying that the reports of the Big East’s demise have been greatly exaggerated…mostly by ESPN.

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36 thoughts on “First Season In the Books: How Did The Big East Do?”

  1. “All the talk that the Atlantic 10 might be on par or even better than the Big East because they got 6 teams into the NCAA Tournament is beyond ludicrous.”

    The A-10 had more top 100 RPI teams than the Big East and had a team make it to the Elite 8. The Big East was looking realistically of only getting two bids to the dance. The A-10 got a solid 6 bids. The only thing ludicrous is thinking the Big East was even as good as the A-10 this year – because it was not – not even close. Next Year – the Big East if they are lucky will be on Par to the A-10. The only thing that gets the Big East ahead of the A-10 at this point is them Raiding the A-10 for two teams (Dayton & St. L) outside of that – best case on 2014/15 – Big East = A-10. Just because the New Big East has a better media deal – does not mean it is actually better and it is definitely not the old Big East.

    1. The larger point of that statement I made was to say that, in my opinion, the Big East is better overall in the big picture in terms of overall league strength and depth of rosters. I even said myself before the statement you quoted that the Big East this year is not the old Big East.

      The A10 had a better year in terms of NCAA tournament bids and wins but I don’t believe you can just say because of that, they are better than the Big East. We’ll see how things play out but you’re kidding yourself if the better media deal has nothing to do with the Big East’s strength as a conference. The additional money is why school’s like Dayton and Saint Louis would jump at the chance to join the Big East. Another reason is the level of overall competition.

      How good can a league really be if the top teams in that league would jump at the chance to join another league?

      1. “How good can a league really be if the top teams in that league would jump at the chance to join another league?”

        You mean like when Pitt, Syracuse and ND all jumped to the ACC ?

        Or how GT or Nova would do the same in a heart beat if given the chance.

        1. Not sure how that changes anything I said re: BE vs. A10. ACC is a better league than the Big East. I’m not denying that. But that doesn’t mean the Big East isn’t better than the A10. We are talking about Big East vs. Atlantic 10. Not Big East vs. ACC. Also, football schools like Pitt, Syracuse and ND made the obvious choice for more money. That’s exactly what I said Dayton and Saint Louis would do by jumping to the Big East.

      2. Who is your definitive source for declaring that SLU and Dayton would jump on the opportunity to join the Big East. From where we stand, both the Big East and Fox have much to prove. The BE is nowhere near its past glory, and the name, regardless how much they paid to keep it, does not a conference make. The conference is a shell of its former self, and there is no guaranty that they will come anywhere near matching past success. Fox sports didn’t compete with ESPN, they competed with the weather channel and the local cable channel that broadcast city hall meetings and activities at the local high school. They could fold in a year or two. What becomes of the Big East then?

        If I were Dayton, I would be working to stay near the top of the A10, a multi-bid league, which by the way is very generous in rewarding success (75% of tourney revenues go to the teams that earn them). They can make the tournament most years, and their financial rewards would come in the form of tourney units. This way they control their own destiny and steer clear of the high risk that the Big East represents.

        I think SLU and Dayton would be better served staying right where they are. I also think the A10 is capable of sending just as many teams to the dance as the Big East (if not more like they did this year). If the Big East wants to expand, they should aim for teams like St Bonnie and LaSalle, they will probably say yes pretty quickly. sLUand Dayton? I don’t think so.

        1. I have a VERY hard time seeing Fox Sports 1 just folding up the tent anytime soon. To me, that’s a ludicrous thought. They have invested a TON of money into this new network and will continue to get more and more content. The rumor is they will outbid anyone for the Big 10 media rights which will add a lot more inventory for them.

          Dayton and SLU can enjoy the A10 media deal and NCAA units to the tune of, what? Maybe $2MM per year? I’m sure they hate money so they would never want to jump to a league with a better media deal, better recruiting ability, higher coaching salaries and, of course, the $5MM that the BE schools are getting.

          You sound pretty delusional. You know who my source is? Common sense.

      3. Take a look at this article:

        http://www.sportsmediawatch.com/2014/03/college-basketball-tv-ratings-numbers-for-every-game-of-the-2013-14-season/

        Check the Stats on the Fox and BE ratings…by far the lowest in the data. When I said they compete with the weather channel, this is what I meant…I was not blowing smoke.

        With ratings this anemic, you have to wonder how long the network can hold on and how long the current contract can last. As you know contracts without the business success to back them up are not worth the paper they are printed on.

        Good luck to you and the NBE, I would like to see them succeed, but I happen to believe their position is far more precarious than you are willing to admit.

        Delusional? Delusional is what delusional does.

        Peace.

        1. First season of a new network is going to start slow. I never said they had ESPN-like ratings this year. Where we disagree is on the precarious nature of the network. They are growing and gaining some traction. I happen to have faith that Fox will do what it has to for the network to thrive. They certainly aren’t sparing any expense so far.

          It will be funny to see how Dayton and Saint Louis fans feel if they become part of this precarious media deal. That $5MM/year might change their tune. But, FS1 might not even exist tomorrow, right? So what do I know?

      4. That $5M deal isn’t as attractive as you might think. Dayton basketball revenues are already better than those of most teams in the BE. I saw this in an article during the tourney but can’t remember where. Their coach had a chance to go to Markette and said thanks but no thanks.

        I’ll say it again…dayton and SLU are just fine in the A10. The only reason for them leaving is if the BE decides to expand and they are hellbent on poaching the A10. In that case it might be better for them to join the BE. If the BE looks elsewhere for expansion, I don’t think that Dayton or SLU will worrie about it all that much.

        By the way, FX1 is not growing or gaining traction. I will change my mind about them if they started to add quality content and get reasonable ratings. For now they are way down in the low end of cable sports packages.

  2. What a silly comment about the A10. Dayton had more wins in the tournament than ALL BE teams COMBINED. The A10 got 6 teams in vs just 4 for the BE. The A10 had more top 100 RPI teams as well. So for at least this year the A10 was better than the BE by almost any measure.

  3. That’s one person’s opinion, and that’s all it is, opinion and conjecture. Time will provide the answer.

    1. Just getting to know you. Figure we will be sharing the same bed soon enough. That said – 2013/14 season – no mater how you look at it he A-10 was the best Basketball primary conference.

  4. The New Big East did much better than many thought. NCAA wins over powers such as UW-Milwaukee and LA-Lafayette. St. John’s was able to stay within 11 on its homecourt versus mighty Robert Morris in the prestigious NIT. A coach of one of its schools was able to move up the ladder to Virginia Tech. Overall great showing in the first year.

  5. Point is the A-10 was the better league in 2013/14. What happens next year is unknown – but based on how things ended this season – right now at best the NBE looks to be lucky if they will be on Par with the A-10 in 2014/15. You can’t say the NBE is the better conference just because – you have to look at the most recent results – and Yes 2013/14 – the A-10 was by all measures the better conference.

    1. I’m not saying it just because. I laid it all out in my original response. Overall depth, top to bottom, overall roster strength, media deal are main factors I cited. Most recent results are great but I’m looking at the bigger picture when I say the Big East is a better conference OVERALL.

  6. “Big East worked the A-10 head to head. LOL”

    Classic – NBE played 8 home games and won 8 home games – vs 2 road games and lost 2 road games – shocker the home teams won.

    St. Lou beat NC State – that beat X in the play in game (Hey at least you got to play at UD arena this year).

    What matters is the A-10 had a much better year than the NBE – if more NBE teams would play H/H with A-10 teams the situation would be different.

    It is all about the NCAA tourn. 6 to 4 – 4 wins to 2 wins.

    10 units to 6 units.

    Sad the NBE has to live under the A10 shadow all summer long. Good luck with that.

      1. The A-10 gets a neutral court series with the ACC this year. What does the BE get??? That’s what happens when you play patsies!

  7. To all those burning Mike’s BE/A10 comments..

    Nobody is denying that the A10 was very successful this year, and COULD continue that success. But, there is also no denying the Dayton/SLU interest in the BE money… as well as the obvious interest that UMass has in the AAC, for football. Thus, a less stable A10.

    The argument that the BE is “top to bottom better” is true. I’d be surprised if Fordham and Duquesne become relevant in future years, because they don’t seem to be investing in their programs like the “bottom” of the BE (DePaul).

    Fact of the matter is that SLU/Dayton overachieved, and Georgetown/Marq/St Johns underachieved in 2013-2014…which is the cause to much of this conversation…

    -Tommy

  8. As a Xavier fan I loved our first year in the league. X jumped up four places in the standings after the move. They were the #7 seed in the A-10 in 2013 and were #3 in the Big East in 2014. Attendance remained stable even with the drop in competition as Xavier games sold out in the A-10 and continued to do so in the Big East. Main concern going forward is whether X will be able to get one of the few NCAA bids that the league gets. If it does so with regularity, I am happy.

  9. Houston rises. The bottom is bad, but the top is still very good. SMU is going to be extremely good next year. Long term, the question will be whether being in a better league will allow a couple of the lesser programs to flourish. It surely worked for UConn in the BE. If the bottom of the AAC becomes better, it will become a very good league, if not, it will be just ok. For the BE, it’s different. The lower levels of the BE are solid. What the BE needs is for a couple of teams to become serious threats come every March. Can’t have the league being done after the first weekend most years.

  10. A-10 had a good yr. So what? Think they had one in ’98 too. Look at the League now. No X, Temple, Butler. Replaced by no names similar to Fordham. “One off” yr. woohoo. UD got beat 3x by St. Joe’s! quite a whiney bunch. Get your own TV deal Oh, nobody wants it.

  11. Head to head record: Big East 8 wins/A-10 2 wins. The Big East is still better. The Big East had the fourth highest non-conference winning % of all thirty conferences this year (won 75% of their non-conference games). Only the Big 12, ACC and Mountain West (3-0 vs. Big East thanks to San Diego State and New Mexico) had winning records versus the Big East. The Big East is still a great conference though it lacked any elite teams this season.

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