Media Day Launches New Era for Big East, Same As It Never WasPosted by Todd Keryc on October 17th, 2013
The next generation of the Big East officially kicked off Wednesday with the conference’s annual basketball media day in New York. It was a day marked more by who was missing than who was in attendance. Gone was one of the faces (and mouths) the original Big East was built upon, Jim Boeheim. Gone were the defending national champions, Louisville and Rick Pitino. Gone was even a man who had never coached a game in the conference but whose arrival was expected to help the revamped league, Brad Stevens. Even the traditional Big Monday with Sean McDonough, Jay Bilas and Bill Raftery on ESPN is a thing of the past.
Yes, there’s still a Thompson roaming the sidelines at Georgetown. There’s still Villanova, St. John’s, Providence and Seton Hall, schools bonded together by their Big East heritage and lack of high-level football. But the 2013-14 season will be decidedly different in the Big East. Marquette, always solid but not spectacular since the days of Dwyane Wade, was the media’s choice to win the league. The preseason player of the year, Doug McDermott, plays college hoops in Nebraska at Creighton. The team the closest removed from playing for the national title is Butler, which only has DePaul to thank for avoiding the cellar in the preseason poll.
New Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman vowed in her address to “make the Big East a force in college basketball.” The key word here is “make.” Yes, there’s clear talent this year but there are question marks everywhere. McDermott is a two-time All-American, but one who will face steeper competition night in and night out this season. Marquette returns the frontcourt of a team that was a win away from the Final Four, but must replace talented backcourt performers like Vander Blue and Junior Cadougan. Georgetown lost to Dunk City (Florida Gulf Coast) early in the NCAA Tournament last season and then lost Otto Porter to the NBA. They were still picked to finish second.
Every school, minus maybe DePaul, has a strong basketball history in the last 20 to 30 years. There is huge potential for a Big East rebirth in the great tradition of its ancestors, a league of basketball, by basketball and for basketball. The returning schools look at the sport as the athletic priority. Creighton, Butler and Xavier have all had successful programs in their respective mid-major conferences for a decade plus and were handpicked out of the many possible options to join when the big boys left for greener pastures. Fox Sports 1 begins coverage with fan-favorites Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery teamed together on the call. The potential for excitement and buzz is overwhelming.
Yet there is work to be done to return to elite conference status. The league lost its three most recent national champions this year and the ultimate mark of any conference is its results in March. Age and realignment have claimed most of the historic and quote-machine coaches, the only constants in the one-and-done era of college basketball. The Big East enters year one of the rest of its life with some doubt about its future.
But the beginning of the season comes with a clean slate for teams across the country and it comes with great optimism in this new conference. The players and coaches are excited for the opportunity with perennial powerhouses Syracuse, UConn, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame gone. There are great fan bases excited to see interesting new match-ups and one of them will celebrate a league title in early March. Then we will find out how the new Big East stacks up against its predecessor with the best measuring stick we have: the NCAA Tournament.
And if the new conference cannot match its own glory days, rest assured, Big East fans, there is one thing you will have that nobody else can top.