When Big East is in the House, Oh My God! Danger!


Mar 21, 2023

Full transparency. This is personal for me.

I’m a native New Yorker who grew up rooting for Derrick Coleman and John Wallace on Syracuse and then went to St. John’s, where I cheered on Ron Artest and Bootsy Thornton all the way to the Elite Eight.

A college sports lover in the pro-est of pro towns, whose favorite event throughout the 90s and early 2000s was the Big East Tournament. The only four days, New York City feels like a college town, at least at 4 Pennsylvania Plaza and the area surrounding Madison Square Garden.

When founding members Syracuse, Connecticut, and Boston College, Pittsburgh (joined in 1982), and to a lesser extent, Louisville (coached by Rick Pitino at the time) left (along with Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Rutgers, South Florida) the conference never felt the same.

To their credit, the powers that be did their best, starting with keeping the Big East name and MSG as the location for the Big East Tournament. The conference also returned to its roots, adding basketball schools from mostly small private colleges, which was brilliant.

Still, success was far from guaranteed.

Jay Wright and Villanova have carried the conference’s water for much of the past decade. Since the 2013-14 season (Year 1 of the current realignment), the Wildcats have won two National Championships, made the Final Four last year, and the Sweet 16 the season prior. The rest of the Big East combined for four Sweet 16 appearances and no Final Fours.

Getting “Power 6” respect mainly was, if not all, due to Nova’s achievements.

With Wright covering the tournament for CBS and the Wildcats missing the Big Dance for the first time in over a decade, the Big East could easily be in trouble right now.

Instead, the conference has had two of the best days in the history of the new Big East. On Sunday, Connecticut, who returned to the fold in 2020, Xavier, and Creighton all advanced to the Regional Semifinals. The Big East is tied with the SEC for the most Sweet-16 teams.

The return of the Huskies was huge for the Big East and the program. 

Moreover, in Sean Miller and Shaka Smart, the Musketeers and Marquette (Big East regular season and tournament champs) look like they could be competitive for years to come with coaching hires that feel above their means for numerous reasons.

On the heels of Sunday’s on-court success came the hirings of Rick Pitino at St. John’s and Ed Cooley at Georgetown on Monday, as two former Big East giants, at the conference’s dawn, made statement moves.

Pitino’s hiring comes from the most unique of circumstances, and the expectations are he will bring the Johnnies, my Johnnies, back to national relevance, if not prominence, for the first time since…well, since I was a student over 20 years ago.

While Cooley going from Providence to the Hoyas is technically a wash, with all due respect to the Friars, it’s far more important for the Big East for Georgetown to have the level of competence they’ve sorely lacked over the past eight seasons.

With UConn back, the potential resurgence of SJU and G-Town, solidified programs in Marquette, Xavier, and Creighton, and Nova still having potential…dare I ask…

Is the Big East back?

Thumbnail photo via Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

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