I think it’s pretty safe to say that Jim Boeheim feels the same about the Big East as every Big East hoops fan across the country.
In fact, I don’t think it. I know it. Boeheim said it himself.
“Now, if I had the old Big East, I would rather be there. But we don’t have that.”
Those are just 18 simple words that Boeheim said, but they certainly do carry a lot of weight.
I grew up on Big East basketball. When the news first came out over the summer that the conference as we know will never be the same, it was pretty devastating. But the fact of the matter is that this is not the same conference that it was in its heyday.
Simply put: 16 teams is too many for one league, especially when the bottom half of the conference is so diluted. That is part of what makes Stan Heath’s job at South Florida so incredible. It is so difficult to gather enough talent to be competitive at a school buried at the bottom of a league that competitive. If you were a high school player and your choice came down to DePaul or, say, Temple, where would you go? To a place where you will compete for a tournament bid every season or one where you after almost doomed to spend four years getting your head beaten in.
Say what you want about how his team looks when it play, Stan Heath made South Florida relevant this season. That’s not an easy task.
The biggest problem the Big East had with 16 teams is that the traditional rivals didn’t play enough. Syracuse played Georgetown once this season. UConn played Pitt once. Villanova played all four of those teams once. Those are, traditionally, some of the best games of the regular season in that league. And they play them once.
The Big East had too many games that made you go ‘meh’ when they showed up on the schedule. It showed in the Big East Tournament, as well. When we talk about how great the Big East Tournament is, it is pretty much assumed we are talking about Thursday, Friday and Saturday, because, like the regular season, the first two days are filled with too many irrelevant games between irrelevant teams.
Syracuse, Pitt and West Virginia leaving the Big East essentially killed the conference.
But the Big East was already on its last legs. It wasn’t a knockout punch; it was the finishing move.