Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
Over the past three years, conference realignment has precipitated a shift of thriving programs away from the Big East into the ACC. Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, three valuable pieces of the Big East’s hoops power hierarchy, saw weakness in the Big East’s deteriorating leadership and declining status in the BCS power structure. They sought greater stability and a more lucrative TV payout in their new conference. The Big East was fracturing, so it was not at all surprising that these programs wanted out. It is hard to fault their move. But like so many of the realignment-related movements of late, their league hop had detrimental consequences on the Big East’s basketball league. For years Syracuse and Pittsburgh have contended for conference titles, played fierce rivalry games and did their part to help make the Big East one of the nation’s most compelling hoops leagues. Notre Dame is, by all accounts, a football school, but had itself risen among the league’s hoops upper-tier under head coach Mike Brey. When these programs announced their departures, it wasn’t just a blow to the league’s membership, but to the Big East brand itself, the very essence of which rested upon such fierce hardwood drama. This was a familiar wave of movement; it wasn’t long ago that the ACC poached Virginia Tech, Boston College and Miami, another football-motivated move that impacted its basketball competition at the expense of the Big East. These six defections over the last decade (Boston College, Miami, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Pittsburgh), along with West Virginia’s jump to the Big 12, has conspired to reconstitute the Big East into an amorphous heap of disparate programs, a depleted league robbed of much of its hoops equity.
The realignment-powered decline of Big East basketball is nothing new. It is a topic I (along with many other college hoops scribes around the web) have visited before in this space. This latest bit of news counts as a rare positive step for the revamped league, and it was brought to light Tuesday by ESPN.com’s Brett McMurphy. The ACC may have stolen the Big East’s basketball talent, but it can’t take its legendary conference tournament venue! Take that, conference realignment! Madison Square Garden, according to McMurphy, did not submit a bid for hosting rights to the 2016-21 ACC Tournaments. The newly-unveiled Barclays Center, home of the re-branded Brooklyn Nets, also passed up the soon-to-be hoops super-conference’s league tourney. The Big East’s current deal with MSG runs out in 2016, but an extension is in the works to keep the league’s tournament at the historic New York City arena through 2026, according to the New York Post.