Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco still believes the Big East is the best conference in college basketball, and he’s not afraid to say it.
Aresco spoke with the media in Louisville, Ky. on Monday, with one of the top questions being the announcement of Notre Dame leaving the conference for the ACC.
“Nobody’s going to argue that we’re not the strongest basketball conference in the country,” Aresco said. “There’s no arguing we’re a better football league than we were when we were eight teams. … We liked having Notre Dame and having them at Madison Square Garden. … but I’m just looking ahead.”
The newly-crowned Big East boss said that the conference will play in two six-team divisions in football and the first conference championship in Big East history.
On the court, despite the earlier loss of Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the same conference, Aresco was still confident that the competition is as good as ever, citing Louisville’s recent Final Four trip, as well as the successes of Cincinnati and Marquette.
Arseco does have a point when it comes to losing Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish have been competitive, but in no way have they been a dominant — or anywhere near it — force in college basketball when it comes to the Big East. Adding a number of new teams (SMU, TCU, Central Florida, et al) won’t enhance anything, but bringing in Temple and Memphis does stabilize the conference from a hardwood standpoint. Football? Meh.
As far as being the “top” conference in college basketball, that’s just a lie. No one can replace Syracuse. Pitt wasn’t historically dominant, but made moves under Jamie Dixon. West Virginia was a Sweet 16 contender every year in the past decade and made a Final Four in 2010. They all weren’t national title favorites, but contributed to the allure of the conference from October to March.
The Big East normally was the league that put anywhere from 8-to-11 teams in the NCAA Tournament every year. Aresco and the rest of the league are going to probably have a tough time not doing that anymore very soon. But hey, the first step to recovery is acceptance.