With spring comes rebirth.
And after numerous stages — the shedding of leaves, the wilting, the threat of death and decay — the Big East is ready to be born anew.
The product is something completely original, spawned from a combination of the recent past and memories of what it once was: a basketball powerhouse before the monetary pull of football changed the landscape dramatically.
But just how good is this new hybrid going to be? And what’s to become of the old Big East, which is losing seven schools and its name?
Right now, there are still many questions, but the consensus is that the change is nothing negative for college basketball — and in fact the new Big East could wind up becoming a new and exciting hoops powerhouse in the immediate future.
It helps that the headliners (Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova) of the new league, which officially announced its departure from the old Big East on Friday, are already established hoops brands and that the others in the Catholic Seven (Providence, DePaul, Seton Hall, St. John’s) and those slated to join (Xavier, Butler, Creighton, Dayton and St. Louis) for the most part are no pushovers.
It seems the group that is splitting off is ending up with the best deal. Among the leftovers, however, is where all the uncertainty lies.
The old Big East, which still doesn’t have a new name to replace the established one they sold the Catholic 7 and Co., is also pretty thin. Such schools as Connecticut and Cincinnati have plenty of reasons to heavily support their basketball teams, but because of their football programs — none of the break-off Big East teams has a football programs to speak of — they are losing the hoops competition around them. Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Louisville have agreed to move to the ACC next season. Rutgers will go to the Big Ten in 2014.
With 16 of its members disappearing in the past 18 months, it’s no wonder that before the Catholic 7 effectively took the Big East’s name and conference tournament location at Madison Square Garden, many thought the old conference would simply evaporate. As it is, even with Houston, Memphis, Temple, SMU, Central Florida and (eventually) Tulane set to join the solid-looking FBS league that also includes South Florida, it would be tempting for UConn and Cincy to pack up and leave as well.
Conference expansion and realignment — why does this have to come up during tourney time, with the last Big East tournament (as we know it) set to begin Tuesday? — is far from settled. If anything, the departure of the Catholic 7 sets up another potential round of shifting, this time among midmajors as the Atlantic 10 and Missouri Valley conferences look to regroup from their losses.
As far as the new Big East, it should be safe from any conference poaching in the immediate future since the lack of a football program would make it increasingly unattractive elsewhere.
The spring has brought what seems to be potential new basketball life out of the turmoil. Let’s give it a chance to see how it grows.
A seat hotter than Tubby Smith’s?
• Think Gophers coach Tubby Smith has been feeling some heat? Wake Forest’s Jeff Bzdelik might have the edge when it comes to the level of frustration among fans.
On Thursday, someone took out an ad in the student newspaper, the Old Gold and Black, calling for the firing of the basketball program’s coach. Fans have also dedicated a website with a countdown to the end of Bzdelik’s third season and a Twitter hashtag (BuzzOut) to the cause.
• Kentucky coach John Calipari tends to be a little intense in everything he does — most successful people do, right? — but it’s quite refreshing to hear a coach take so much of the blame for a team’s shortcomings on himself.
After the Wildcats’ loss to Georgia this week, Calipari responded by heaping the team’s troubles on his shoulders: “The biggest thing is: I am so disappointed in the job I’ve done with this team, I can’t even begin to tell you. I look at a team — I’ve done this twenty-something years; I’ve never had a team not cohesive this time of year. Every one of my teams [was] cohesive. Every one of them had a will to win more than how they were playing. Every one of them had a fight. Well, if this team doesn’t have that, that’s on me. ... I’m going to go back and evaluate how we practiced, what I accepted, because they’re giving us what I’ve accepted — which is, ‘It doesn’t matter whether we win or lose, I’m going to play the way I want to play.’ ”
• The ends of basketball games have seemed to creep longer and longer with delays — fouls, timeouts, replays and coaches berating officials — piling up at the end. Sports On Earth’s Mike Tannier decided to figure out just how lengthy the finishes typically are. His findings — based on fives games he studied — show that the final minute of a college basketball game can take anywhere from eight to 12 minutes to wrap up.
Big ten power poll
1. Ohio State: You’ve got to give it to the Buckeyes right now after wins over both Michigan State and Indiana in the past two weeks. They’re peaking at the right time.
2. Indiana: Can the Hoosiers hang on to their spot when three other teams are salivating for it?
3. Michigan: A win over Michigan State was huge to help turn around the Wolverines’ recent luck.
4. Michigan State: With just Northwestern left, the Spartans should finish out with another W. But then, it’s hard to predict this league.
5. Wisconsin: Consecutive losses have taken the Badgers out of the title conversation.
6. Iowa: Don’t look now, but the Hawkeyes are sneaking up in the rankings.
7. Illinois: Funny how the Big Ten has arranged itself into two real battles: the one for the top, and the one for sixth place.
8. Minnesota: Losses to Nebraska help no one. Get it together, Gophers.
9. Purdue: When they get the flip-floppy Gophers at home, the Boilermakers have a chance to finish on a high note.
10. Nebraska: Tim Miles has gotten these guys to never give up.
11. Northwestern: The Wildcats haven’t done themselves many favors at the end of the schedule.
12. Penn State: After winning two of the past three for their first two victories of the season, it really does seem there will be better days next year.