Rayno's college basketball insider: Good things could arise from Big East turmoil

  • Updated: March 8, 2013 - 8:22 PM
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The Big East Conference logo doesn’t mean exactly what it used to mean, but it still stands for high-quality college basketball played by traditional powers.

Photo: JACQUELYN MARTIN • Associated Press ,

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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.

SHORT TAKES

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.

 

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