Home » Columns »Your Phil of Hoops » Currently Reading:

Big East looks the same in some ways and quite different in other ways

November 13, 2015 Columns, Your Phil of Hoops No Comments

The Big East still has its name and logo. It has several brand-name programs from its history, like Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s and Villanova. It has a Thompson coaching at Georgetown, and a legend from St. John’s is now coaching them. The tournament is still at Madison Square Garden, as if it could ever be anywhere else.

It sounds like little has changed. But something is missing as the third year of the current alignment tips off.

Coaches naturally talk up the conference and its strength, but it doesn’t feel like a powerhouse conference like the Big East of old, even before the old Conference USA teams entered following the ACC’s raid of the conference over a decade ago. There isn’t a big rivalry in the conference, as opposed to ones that used to exist. Add in the presence of a number of teams from the Midwest that joined later, and the feeling persists aside from the quality.

The closest thing the conference has to a national power since the change has been Villanova. After that, however, there has been a bit of a drop-off, especially in terms of consistency. Georgetown hasn’t been the same since the Otto Porter days, going back to the last years of the old Big East. Creighton had a big year in their first season, but dropped off markedly last year. Providence won the tournament two years ago and reached the NCAA Tournament again last year, but the Friars will be challenged to get back this year. St. John’s has had talent, but it hasn’t translated on the bottom line.

There is still quality, but the conference’s identity is perhaps a bit undefined right now. Villanova appears to be carrying the flag early on, but who will carry the flag with them? You have to think the conference won’t be a one-trick pony given the programs that are in it, but it’s not clear who that will be.

It could be Georgetown or St. John’s, given their history. It could be Providence with the work Ed Cooley and his staff has done, including back-to-back NCAA Tournament trips for the first time in a quarter of a century. It could be Marquette, which has had its fair share of success and should certainly be able to recruit enough talent with second-year head coach Steve Wojciechowski. It could be newcomers Butler, Creighton or Xavier, who all have a history of success, though out of those three only Xavier has made the NCAA Tournament in both of their first two seasons in the new conference.

Last year, the conference was thought to be a bit of an also-ran among the elite conferences, but started out like a house on fire. Big East teams won 39 of their first 41 games before coming back to earth a bit. They still finished 94-30 in non-conference play, posting a .500 or better record against teams from all Power 5 conferences except the Pac-12 (they went 2-4 against those schools). Villanova (Legends Classic) and Seton Hall (Paradise Jam) won early season tournaments, while Providence went 2-0 in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off (matchups at Mohegan Sun Arena were pre-set).

This year? After Villanova, it’s a tough call. Providence has a reigning co-Player of the Year back in Kris Dunn, but how much help he will have is an open question. The Friars won’t be picked to seriously challenge the Wildcats by many prognosticators. Xavier brings back a lot of good talent, as do Georgetown and Butler, so they should be in the running. Creighton and Marquette will have more talent, while St. John’s has to adjust to a new coach and a very new roster. DePaul also has a new head coach as Dave Leitao begins his second stint in Chicago, and at the very least the Blue Demons should be a tougher out. Seton Hall will have talent, but they had talent last season, too, and after a nice start, they didn’t finish well, so what that talent will translate into on the bottom line is hard to figure.

The Big East isn’t talked about much as a conference that lost out in the recent conference realignment craze, but make no mistake: it did. It didn’t take the kind of hits the CAA or Conference USA did, but it hasn’t made out like the Atlantic 10, one of the clear winners in all of this (although, interestingly, since the split, the Big East has basically owned the Atlantic 10 in head-to-head matchups). The Big East in its old form may not have been very sustainable given the diversity of schools, but it did once place 11 of 16 teams in the NCAA Tournament.

A few decades ago, you could easily figure who would carry the flag for the conference. Georgetown and St. John’s were givens, and Providence was right there along with Villanova, while DePaul wasn’t in the conference back then but was a consistent NCAA Tournament team. Right now, Villanova appears to be the consistent leader, with others still trying to establish themselves right behind them. It’s one of several ways in which the conference feels a bit different now entering its third year in the current form.

Comment on this Article:

Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville


Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Hoopville Podcasts

College Basketball Tonight – March 19, 2017

March 20, 2017 by

The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is in the books, and after two rounds that could not be more different. Ted Sarandis leads the way as we break down the first two rounds, as well as coaching news that emerged over the weekend.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – March 18, 2017

March 18, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we look back on the first round games in the NCAA Tournament, starting with a couple of terrific performances on Friday night.

College Basketball Tonight – March 12, 2017

March 13, 2017 by

We bring you College Basketball Tonight, a comprehensive look at the 2017 NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran broadcaster Ted Sarandis. The NCAA Tournament field is set, and we break down each region as well as some big picture subjects.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – March 10, 2017, Part 2

March 10, 2017 by

In Part 2 of our podcast, we talk about the ACC Tournament and others that have found new homes in light of comments made by a prominent coach that got quite a reaction, then we talk about the NCAA Tournament bubble as that subject begins to dominate conversation for a couple of more days.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – March 10, 2017, Part 1

March 10, 2017 by

In Part 1 of the podcast as Championship Week rolls on, we look at some important games in New York, as well as surprises in the Big 12. Also, more coaching changes are happening, and we talk about some of the news there.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale preview

June 24, 2016 by

We look ahead to the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, held at a familiar location in Boston.

At the 2016 Boston Shootout, host BABC has a big day

June 8, 2016 by

Sunday was a big day for the host program at the 44th Boston Shootout

2015 Boston Back to School Showcase recap

September 18, 2015 by

The Boston Back to School Showcase gave high school teams from three states and north of the border a chance for a couple of early games. We take a look back at the day and a few who stood out.