Since the “New Big East” began entering the 2013-14 college basketball season, there have been many doubters in what the new-look conference was capable of with only 10 teams.
Many of the big names that made the Big East what it was are long gone and the conference has still thrived since then.
In 2016, Villanova won the national championship over a blueblood school in North Carolina on arguably the greatest shot in NCAA Tournament history. Last season, the Big East sent seven of its 10 teams to the big dance and this season it looks like the conference will take another step forward with multiple teams constantly in the top 25 and two in the top 10 of the national rankings.
However, being around college basketball fans, reporters and broadcasters you can still tell that people either miss the old Big East or are not giving the new version the respect it deserves.
I would say to them “hey, watch the new Big East you will like what you see,” but even St. John’s coach Chris Mullin and Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing will tell you it is not quite like the old days.
It will take time and hard work, but the Big East is already known for that. To get back to the way it used to be, six things must be done and if these are completed the next time you watch “Requiem for the Big East” you can smile and say “no, the good old days never left.”
1) Someone must dethrone Villanova in the regular season
We talk about how much parity there is in the Big East every season and that seems to hold up to some extent.
Yes, we do see upsets every year in the Big East but what we don’t see is any change at the top. Villanova has won the regular season conference title every year that this 10-team league has been in place.
If you want to claim that the conference has parody then a new team must knock Nova from their perch. Xavier has the best chance to do it this season and it really doesn’t matter which team does it, but if you want to see more teams get respect in the conference then someone must beat the champs.
2) A “new” Big East team must win the conference tournament
In the new Big East format, three different teams have won the Big East tournament. Villanova has won it twice (2015 and 2017), Seton Hall has won it once (2016) and Providence won the first Big East title in the new format in 2014.
A new team that entered the Big East under the new format must win the Big East tournament. Now to be fair, two of those “new” teams have come close. Creighton has played in two title games in 2014 and 2017, but lost to Providence and Villanova respectively. Xavier made it to the title game in 2015, but lost to Villanova.
However, one of the marquee additions to the conference has yet to win a Big East tournament game. That’s right. Butler is winless at Madison Square Garden in Big East Tournament games. This is not good for the conference one bit.
One of these new teams needs to add the Big East Tournament trophy to their case. We remember when schools like Pittsburgh, Louisville, West Virginia and others won their first title after years of near misses. This conference tournament means more to its conference than any other and one of the newer schools needs to write a chapter in this famous tournament’s history.
3) A team other than Villanova must win the National title
This may be the toughest task of all. Villanova did their job and won a national title to officially put the Big East back on the map in 2016. However, that isn’t enough. Someone else must make the run to the title.
No other Big East team has made a Final Four during this new format let alone challenged for a title. Xavier reached an Elite Eight last season, but could not get to Glendale. One of the top teams besides Villanova must raise the trophy to show that this league is not just “Villanova and nine other teams.” That is not a look the Big East should associate itself with on a national landscape.
4) Multiple Big East teams must make the Final Four
The Old Big East’s finest hour might have come in 1985 when three Big East teams made it to the Final Four. Villanova, Georgetown and St. John’s made it to the Final Four that year and the Wildcats would go on to shock Georgetown to win the national title for the first time.
We need another year close to that where two teams make a deep run. Obviously, making the Final Four is a tough task with the way college basketball is today. However, it seems that each season one team has had to carry the Big East in the NCAA Tournament. Last season it was Xavier and in 2016 it was Villanova. Other Big East teams lose early and only one team makes a deep run.
The Big East needs a year where three or maybe four teams make a Sweet 16 run and a few make it to the Elite Eight or possibly further. In college hoops, your conference is measured by how you play in March and first round exits are not going to get the job done.
It’s time for multiple teams in this conference to make deep March Madness runs.
5) Georgetown and St. John’s must become nationally relevant
The Old Big East was fueled by these two teams and now that the biggest figures are back to coach their respective schools again it is time for these two programs to become relevant again.
Both teams had runs to the NCAA Tournament in 2015, but neither have come close to the Big East title or the big dance since. These two brands being great could take this conference to a new level and with Ewing and Mullin leading the way many expect a resurgence to come at some point.
Teams like Seton Hall, Xavier, Creighton and Providence have shown that their national relevance can help to overcome that, but two of the biggest name in college hoops need to come back into the national conversation.
The Big East needs it to happen sooner rather than later.
6) Expansion must happen
And justice will be served if Old Big East teams come crawling back.
We are looking at you Connecticut.
Obviously, we have no idea if that would happen but if it is possible the Big East needs to jump all over it. A number of Big East teams have fallen on hard times since leaving the conference.
Schools like UCONN, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, USF and even Syracuse have taken big steps back since leaving the Big East. If the Big East had some of those teams or other notable programs come into the fold, it can only help the conference.
Of course, football will come into play and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Big East would want to think twice before going down that road again. However, if a school that relies heavily on basketball were to come to the table and happened to have a football team as well it would be hard for the Big East not to entertain adding them.
Certainly, seeing old teams come back to the new Big East would validate what the conference has done in recent seasons and show the relevance of an all-basketball school league in college athletics.
This will take time and needs to be done right but for this conference to reach the top and last long-term, expansion in some form must happen.
Silencing the haters
The Big East has already proved that this new conference works and is respected on a national scale by most people in college basketball, but now it’s time to go bigger.
It’s time to remind the fans that left when the conference split in 2013 that this league hasn’t gone anywhere and in some ways is better than ever.
It’s time to show other conferences that during any given year any team from the Big East can get to the college basketball mountaintop each season.
It’s time to payback the teams that gave up on the Big East and remind them why leaving may have been the worst decision they ever made as a program.
It’s time to finally solidify the Big East as the best basketball conference in America where it rightfully belongs.
Complete these tasks and at that point there will be no debate.
The Big East will be back at the top of college hoops.