Monday, September 19, 2011

I'll miss the Big East, but college basketball will live on

Let's face it: the Big East as we know it is done. Its over. No more Big Monday, no more Syracuse-Georgetown home-and-home's, no more five-day runs through the Big East Tournament.

And that sucks.

People that don't live in the Northeast don't truly understand what Big East basketball was to us. We may not have tailgated as hard, we may not have been quite as delusional as fans, we certainly didn't pack 100,000 people into the arenas to see the games, but the passion and the love affair with the sport ran just as deep as SEC football in the south. Big East basketball was Lou Carnesecca and John Thompson, Jr, Jim Calhoun and Jim Boeheim. It was Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin to Kerry Kittles and Ray Allen to Gerry McNamara and Kemba Walker, and every hero in between.

The Big East was everything that was right about college basketball. But the writing was on the wall -- the Big East simply thrived in the wrong sport.

With so many of the founding members of the Big East playing football below the Big East level -- Villanova, Georgetown, St. John's, Providence -- it was only a matter of time before someone made the move. Many believed that Syracuse and Pitt were eventually going to be headed to the Big Ten. The surprise of this tweet on Friday night from Pete Thamel wasn't that the Big East had two members defecting, its that those members were defecting to the ACC.*

(*Frankly, we shouldn't be surprised. With the lack of football strength in the Big East, it became the ACCDL [ACC Developmental League, thank you very much] over the past six years. The last five teams that the conference has added -- Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Syracuse, and Pitt -- all came from the Big East.)

As disappointing as this move is for Big East hoops fans, college basketball will live on. Hell, it may end up being better. If the rumors are true and UConn does follow Syracuse and Pitt into the ACC, that conference immediately becomes the most powerful in the country. Think about this -- since Michigan State's national title in 2000, eight of the last 11 national champions will be playing in the ACC, and that doesn't including UConn's title in 1999. You don't think it will be fun to see North Carolina and Duke have to do battle with UConn, Syracuse and Pitt every single season? If the powers that be opt to bring in a school like Louisville or West Virginia instead of Rutgers**, the league will be even stronger.

(**I seriously don't understand the love-fest with Rutgers. They stink at football, they have never been good at basketball [although Mike Rice seems to have that trending towards change], and no one in the New York market cares about them.)

I'm not naive. I know that conference alignment in college sports in a fluid thing. These shifts happen, and for some schools and leagues its for the better. For the Villanova's and the Georgetown's and the rest of the Big East (ahem, TCU), its for the worse.

But I'm also sentimental and nostalgic.

I'll miss the Big East Tournament and Big Mondays. I'll always fondly remember the rivalry between Syracuse and Georgetown. I'll never forget moments like DeJuan Blair's body-slam of Hasheem Thabeet in 2009; or Ray Allen's prayer to beat Georgetown in the 1996 Big East Tournament; or the late-game heroics of Gerry McNamara in the 2006 Big East Tournament; or, simply, the sixth-overtime.

Most of all, I'll miss those late-nights in the Garden. Every college basketball fan has to have the Big East Tournament on their bucket list.

Its an unbelievable experience.

And it may come to an end, as we know it, in March.


Anonymous said...

Syracuse and Pitt aren't going to leave until 2014. So the Big East as we know it isn't dead yet. It won't end in March as your conclusion states.

Do some research and stop trying to wax poetic.

KDH said...

The Big East died when it raided C-USA a few years ago. The Georgetown-Syracuse matchups were great; the Depaul-South Florida matchups less so. The Big East was a bloated conference. Hypothetically, I'd be glad it's shrinking. In reality, the Big East is shrinking only to be replaced by other bloated conferences. What I'll miss most of realignment is home and homes becoming the exception and not the rule in the other conferences.