Mike Aresco

With Louisville to ACC, where does Big East go from here?


UPDATED 28 November, 2012, 5:49 p.m. ET

Mike Aresco took the job as Big East commissioner in August and was immediately hailed as the man who could save the struggling conference.

A television executive by trade, Aresco has played the media negotiation game at CBS and was in line to sculpt a deal that would keep the conference financially stable for years to come.

But that was when he had more assets.

With Louisville’s departure to the ACC materializing Wednesday morning, Aresco is outside of his conference’s exclusive negotiating window with ESPN and out on the open market with much less than he likely thought he would have.

Without Pittsburgh, Syracuse, West Virginia, Louisville, TCU, Rutgers, or Notre Dame, Aresco is ultimately left with a group of Catholic basketball-only schools, a majority of former Conference USA school, and two schools—Connecticut and Cincinnati—who have an undeniable desire to jump ship.

The Big East tried to make an impact move Tuesday, adding Tulane as a full member and East Carolina as a football-only institution. What has long been a running joke has now almost fully come to be: The Big East in the new C-USA.

Without power players like Syracuse, Pittsburgh, or Notre Dame, the approach pursued by Aresco and the Big East seems to be one that focuses much more on scooping up as many television markets as possible, rather than having a solidified regional brand.

This explains the additions of San Diego State, Navy, and Boise State for football, and Memphis, Houston, UCF, Southern Methodist, Tulane, East Carolina, and Temple as full members.

However much criticism there is about the watering-down of the product, the Big East is looking for strongholds in metro markets and now has them in San Diego, Boise, Memphis, Houston, Orlando, Dallas, New Orleans, Raleigh, and Philadelphia.

We will have to wait to see what else shakes out, but as it stands now, the Big East also holds Milwaukee, Cincinnati, New York City, Chicago, and Tampa.

The remaining question is if such a model will draw substantial television dollars, which falls on the shoulders of Aresco and his ability to negotiate on behalf of his conference.

Purists who decry the lack of quality, long-standing rivalries should move on at this point. Put aside the ideal structure and realize the moves are so heavily based on economics that there is little room for that type of consideration.

Schools and athletic directors are looking out for what is economically best for their programs, which is what they were hired to do. No administrator will pass up a larger per-school payout to preserve some local rivalries.

One question that continues to arise, too, is the fate of the basketball-only and basketball-prominent schools in the Big East.

What becomes of St. John’s, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, DePaul, Seton Hall, and Villanova, who don’t have FBS football assets to offer a conference? As much as the idea of a basketball-only conference with programs like Butler and Xavier has been floating around, it all comes back to financial feasibility.

Football drives realignment and the Catholic basketball schools would be taking a significant cut to break off and form their own league, so where do they go?

We might need to see a few more dominoes fall before we have any idea.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.