When it comes to the strongest conference in college basketball, some people will say the Big East. More than likely they were around to watch the glory days of Ewing, Mullins and Pinckney. Let’s call them old school. And they’d be right if it was 1985.
Nowadays, not so much. Having gone to college at Big East power UConn I watched a lot of these games and what I noticed is Big East teams just play harder against each other than they do out-of-conference teams. This conference was built on regional rivalries. DC kids playing Philadelphia kids playing New York City kids. And that is what these teams really care about. For me as a fan, a Big East title win would have been just as good as a Final 4 run. But these teams thrive on out playing each other.
Before I go any further let me just say I love the Big East and do not intend to bash it. I will always hold grudges against Notre Dame and Syracuse for ruining the conference (for the record who tried to hold it together? UConn). People should stop looking at the Big East as if it is still the mid 1980s. I watched these games and saw Syracuse lose to Marquette teams that just weren’t that good. Scottie Reynold’s Villanova team was a 2 seed and lost to St. Mary’s in the second round. Look at Georgetown. Every year they play the highly ranked Syracuse tight, win about half the time and look like a top 15 team. Come NCAA tournament time they lose to double digit seeds five tournaments running.
The depth of teams just isn’t there anymore. Playing in the Big East has made some teams overrated. If you were asking which conference had the most heart or will I’d say the (old) Big East every time. The best conference of the last five years however?
That would be the Big 10.
Which really has 11 teams. Which makes no sense I know.
Yes the Big East has some of the most famous and successful coaches, Jim Boeheim, John Thompson III, Kevine Ollie, but the Big 10 coaches aren’t slouches. Tom Izzo and Thad Matta can hold their own. Yes the Big East has won 3 of the last 5 championship (two by UConn, take that Boeheim) but most of the Big East teams don’t advance into the second weekend. The Big 10 on the other hand has more teams playing longer into March. The depth doesn’t measure up and that’s what makes a conference tops. Over the last 5 years the Big 10 has had Michigan. Michigan St, Ohio St, Indiana and Wisconsin as title contenders. You could even throw in Purdue for the early 2010 years with E’Twan Moore and Robbie Hummel. The Big East only had UConn, Syracuse Louisville and one year of West Virginia. The ACC, which was so top heavy it had to absorb half of the Big East, only had Duke and UNC.
And you can make a very real argument that Michigan should have beat Louisville in the 2013 Final. An argument I will make because, like I said, the Big East is built on rivalries so I hated seeing Louisville win. Let’s begin:
First they rode the hot hand of Spike Albrecht too long. Beilein used Spike in second half more than Nik Stauskas. Spike was hot no doubt but Stauskas was a top recruit who could have handled the Louisville’s pressure better once Spike’s shooting began to fizzle. Second Burke should have gone in for a few minutes and the end of the half to keep the momentum. Instead Luke Hancock sparks Louisville with his three point shooting and third and most importantly…
This is not a foul:
Besides college success, the Big 10 also had three players in the top five in voting for the NBA Rookie of the Year from three different teams. Yes a Big East player won it, but remember depth defines a conference. The Big East has been a terrific conference and the games between those teams games have always been as hotly contested as possible but the Big 10 has just as heated rivalries, some you just might not know about yet. While the Big East has unfortunately been dismantled and split up, the Big 10 sits ready to carry the power conference torch.