A quick take on the latest news in realignment affecting the Big East:
WHAT HAPPENED: Two bits of news came out today that delivered body blows to an already weak Big East conference. This morning, sources within the Big East basketball contingent told ESPN that the Catholic basketball schools may break off into their own league, dissolving the conference they once built. Later in the day, news came out that the Atlantic 10 would be willing to expand to cover the basketball schools interested in leaving. This comes on the heels of Louisville defecting to the ACC, and UConn and Cincinnati very publicly looking for life boats out of the Big East.
ANALYSIS: Here are two takes on the news from The Juice Online’s Nate Federman and Wesley Cheng.
Federman: An Atlantic 10/Big East marriage would produce excellent basketball
Once the dominoes started falling, this was probably inevitable. As a rationalist, this makes sense to me. As an adult who doesn’t remember life before the Big East, this makes me sad and nostalgic. But as a college basketball fan, this makes me excited. Setting aside who’s to blame (the Catholic schools then and now) and who the victims are (anyone who has to travel from Tampa to Boise in late November), I’d watch the crap out of a conference that featured the likes of Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova, and on-the-rise programs like Providence and St. John’s, especially if they added a few additional basketball-only schools like Butler and/or Xavier. And if they were to join the A-10, it would make for one hell of a conference tournament. The Big East is doomed, but maybe euthanizing the conference is a more humane thing, than forcing people to stomach Providence vs. Tulane “Big Mondays” on ESPN.
Cheng: Quality of product still matters even with good geography
This is the first instance in realignment where adding a team for the sake of numbers and a larger media market came back to haunt the conference. In this case, I’m talking about Tulane. The Big East needed to react to losing Louisville, and the New Orleans market opened up another television opportunity. But Tulane was so bad in athletics, that it ended up scaring away the Big East schools. Tulane football had under 3,000 people at a game last year, and the basketball team will drag down the conference RPI significantly (see Depaul). This seemed to be the final straw for the Big East basketball schools. Perhaps this is a harbinger for things to come. Instead of just adding teams for geographical reasons, maybe conferences should also look at the quality of the team they’re adding, too.