Let’s Not Panic About the Big East Just Yet

Posted by Brad Cavallaro on November 16th, 2018

After splitting the Gavitt Games in the first three years of its existence, the Big Ten has dominated in year four. The pair of teams projected at the top of the Big East this season — Villanova and Marquette — provided little resistance against Michigan and Indiana earlier this week. Meanwhile, Xavier and Creighton dropped home games to Wisconsin and Ohio State while Seton Hall proved to be no match for Nebraska. As it turns out, Georgetown and DePaul are the only Big East teams to win thus far, knocking off Illinois and Penn State (but both were without one of their top two players).

Steve Wojchiechowski is in the midst of a rebuild at Marquette. (Mark Hoffman/The Journal Sentinel)

On paper, these match-ups looked fairly even, but the Big Ten has proved to be the superior conference at this early point. Normally, these conference challenges need to be taken with a grain of salt as they are only one benchmark to compare conference strength. However, after the Big Ten’s beat-down of the Big East this week, not many reasonable people would think the Big East is the superior league. If St. John’s falls to Rutgers on Friday evening, it will cap off an embarrassing week for the conference.

Even though this has been a horrible start, it is still not time to panic. Even if the Big Ten is the better league, that does not mean the Big East won’t improve. Earning 28 NCAA Tournament berths in the last five years gives it the benefit of the doubt. Villanova has won two National Championships in the last three seasons; Xavier has an Elite Eight appearance under its belt: Providence has made five straight NCAA Tournaments; and Butler has consistently advanced in the postseason. These are great basketball programs that have proven resilient time and time again.

These Gavitt Games will certainly hurt the early perception of the league’s overall strength, but the more important takeaway is that they did not significantly damage any resumes. Creighton probably took the worst loss by losing at home to Ohio State, but although certainly an unfortunate missed opportunity, it is far from a bad loss. Baylor, UCF and Notre Dame are a few teams that have already suffered very damaging losses. A team like George Mason in the Atlantic 10 has already suffered three horrendous defeats, effectively ending its at-large chances before Thanksgiving. While these types of blunders could still occur, the Big East has remained unscathed in the very important bad-loss department.

It is not time to panic just yet, but the league now has significant work to do in the rest of the non-conference schedule, and it starts with the projected favorites. The Wildcats lacked cohesion and quality play from the point guard slot while the Golden Eagles continued to be troubled with their porous defense. The Big East will need both teams to quickly rebound and pick up some meaningful non-conference wins to rebuild the profile. Every team needs to do its part by winning all their buy games and advancing in their holiday tournaments. Given all the talent that left school after last season, it is not a total surprise that the league is off to a slow start, but earning quality non-conference wins remains essential and will have a huge role in determining the fate of this year’s Big East in March.

Brad Cavallaro (16 Posts)

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