Things are looking up for Georgetown Hoyas basketball and one reason is the Big East has now clearly become the best basketball conference in the country. This is not just by one or two measures, but by nearly every measure there is. Ten in all. If anyone argues otherwise, send them a link to this definitive list at Casual Hoya. While it’s somewhat Georgetown-centric, this article can be used by Big East fans everywhere. And potential recruits should consider these factors when deciding which conference to play in.
The amazing thing is that ten years ago, the Big East was dealing with an existential crisis, likely facing an eventual extinction due to never-ending conference realignment dictated by greedy football schools. In the midst of that chaos, the seven Catholic schools made a bold, visionary move to separate from the football schools and reinvent itself back to its roots as a basketball-centric conference. It paid to keep the Big East name and rights to Madison Square Garden. The football schools got almost everything else. As Sports Illustrated wrote last month:
“At this time 10 years ago, the Big East Conference had a name, a history and a clear vision of what it wanted to be—and no longer wanted to be. What it didn’t have was anything else.
There was no commissioner. No office. No bank account. No website. No work email. No staff benefit plan. If someone in the spring and summer of 2013 asked where the Big East headquarters were located, the generally correct answer would have been, “New York City.” But there was no actual address, no shingle to hang outside, no there there.
What it lacked in physical presence, the conference made up for in direction—away from the gravitational pull of football, toward the basketball-centric ethos that made the Big East what it was to begin with. Instead of trying to keep up with the gridiron Joneses via a loose confederacy of drifter schools that had little in common, the “Catholic 7” core of the league broke away and went back to the future.”
With far less resources than the football schools, most of which were large state schools, it was doubtful if the new Big East would fail or succeed. There was a serious risk it could turn into a mid-major on the periphery of the national basketball conversation. Instead, it’s become the best conference and the most essential part of the conversation.
This helps Georgetown in several ways from higher annual tournament revenues (and probably TV revenues), to recruiting, to school spirit to overall admissions. I’ll cover those at the end. First, let’s look at the many reasons why the Big East is “back in the high life” as the best conference in the country – both now and probably for many years to come.
1. Winning the most titles the past 10 and past 12 years, including 3 of the last 7
The numbers don’t lie. The Big East has won 43% of the last seven national championships. If you measure by the last dozen titles, it’s won 42%. If you go by the last ten, it’s won 40%. The ACC is well behind in second with 29%, 25% and 30% in those time periods. All other conferences have been massively behind.
In the last 25 years (24 tourneys due to COVID), the SEC and Big 12 have won only 12%. The Big 10 has won only a pitiful 4%, meaning they should maybe change their name to the “Small 10.” The American won 4%, and their only winner (UConn) is now in the Big East. The Pac-12 has won 0%. Zilch. Zip. Nada.
If you figure there are six power conferences and the other leagues combined should probably win a title every 7 years, the Big East should only be winning a title at a rate of once every 7 years, or 14% of the time. But it’s winning them at double that rate in the last 25 years and roughly triple that rate in the last 7, 10 and 12 years.
2. The best overall conference this year
Of conferences that received more than one bid, the Big East had the best winning percentage at .750. The only conference to come close was the West Coast at .667, and that was mostly because it had only two bids, and one of them (Gonzaga) reached the Elite 8. A distant third was the ACC at .583. The Big East was .167 better, which was 29% higher. The Big 10 and Pac-12 were dead last, with seven other leagues ahead of them. Out of all leagues, the Big 12 finished 9th, the SEC 11th, the AAC 12th and the Big 10 and Pac-12 tied for 13th.
The Big East got 60% of its initial tourney teams into the Sweet 16, which was 62% better relative to the SEC’s 37%. That 60% was more than twice as good as the other power conferences, with the Big 12 at only 29%, the Pac-12 at 25%, the ACC at 20% and the Big 10 at a pathetic 12%. The Big East also led in the percentage of its tourney teams reaching the Elite 8. The SEC, Pac-12 and Big 10 all had no teams make it past the Sweet 16.
The Big 12 flamed out in the Elite 8 and got none into the Final 4. The Big East should have had two teams in the Final Four if not for bad officiating in most of the Creighton-San Diego State game. In the Final 4, Creighton likely would have beaten FAU to set up an all-Big East title game. But even without that, the Big East was clearly the best conference.
More proof of this was the 4th-place Big East team (UConn) decimating every non-BE team it played in the tourney and winning the title. It was likely the most dominant NCAA tournament by any team in history. Most impressive: UConn was the only team ever to beat all six of its tourney opponents by at least 13 points. Its average margin of victory was 20 points.
On top of that, UConn became the first national champion in history to win all 6 of its games by double figures while also holding all opponents to 65 points or less. Phenomenal offense and dominant defense. It was the first team in 60-plus years to hold opponents to under 35% shooting in the three rounds before the championship. Then they did it yet again in the title game. No teams from the Sweet 16 onwards did better than 33.3%. UConn was only the second team ever to hold all six opponents to under 40%.
The Big East has 11 schools. Yet in the final post-tourney USA Today Coaches Poll, 4 of the top 15 teams were from the Big East: 27% of them. That’s as many as the 55 teams of the ACC, Big 10, SEC and Pac-12 managed to do combined. In all, the Big East had quadruple the number of top 15 teams as each of those conferences.
3. The toughest conference from top to bottom in recent years
The most telling thing is that while UConn could only muster a 13-8 record (62%) in the ultra-competitive Big East, it was 17-0 (100%) against non-Big East opponents. You might think this was just a matter of luck, borne of UConn eking out some close ones. You’d be totally wrong. They beat those teams by an average margin of 24 points, and beat all by double digits.
This included eight tourney teams with seeds of at least 13 or higher. They included #1 seed Alabama, #3 seed Gonzaga, #5 seeds San Diego State, Miami and Saint Mary’s, #6 seed Iowa State and #8 seed Arkansas. In the post-tourney poll, those teams finished the year ranked #4, #10, #2, #3, #22, #38 and #21 respectively. That’s three top 4 teams, four top 10 and six top 25 teams. Many had high quality coaches including Rick Pitino, Randy Bennett, Eric Musselman, Mark Few and Jim Larrañaga.
UConn also routed three other power conference teams in the regular season that were on the bubble: “last team out” Oklahoma State, “next 4 out” Oregon, and #4 NIT seed Florida. In all, UConn played 8 non-Big East teams that made the tourney and 3 that came very close. It easily beat all 11 of them by double-digits. But in the Big East, it could only beat the worst team (Georgetown) by six points, and lost to teams in the middle and bottom of the Big East that weren’t even seen as being near the bubble.
UConn is 28-3 when leading at the half.— John Fanta (@John_Fanta) April 4, 2023
The Huskies, up by 12 right now, have trailed for a total of 55 seconds in the second half in the entire NCAA Tournament.
In the 2nd half, UConn also never trailed non-Big East teams during the regular season for even a second. So against 17 of them (including 11 that made the tourney or came close), UConn only trailed for less than a minute. But the Big East’s worst team, Georgetown, single-handedly did 600% better than all 17 teams combined by leading UConn in the 2nd half for over 7 minutes - from the 16:35 mark to the 9:29 mark. And it was a very good lead: up by 7 points with 11 minutes left. Also, with UConn unable to win the regular season or tourney titles this year due to the toughness of the Big East, it is one of only 3 schools to win the national title without a conference title.
A few people have claimed that a lot of UConn’s weaker conference record was due to its opponents being more familiar with them. But that doesn’t hold up to logic on multiple fronts. UConn was also more familiar with those teams, which largely offsets that notion. Also, UConn wasn’t familiar with any of the 11 tourney and almost-tourney teams it blew away, so it was operating at a similar disadvantage.
A theory is UConn having two very good centers makes them more unique, and harder to adjust to. But most of UConn’s losses were in the first half of the league schedule when its opponents were facing UConn’s hard-to-guard center Donovan Clingan for the first time. He’s their 5th highest scorer and 3rd in rebounds. Also new was starter Alex Karaban, their 4th highest rebounder and scorer. As the season progressed and teams became more familiar, UConn did better. Thus, the key explanation is how strong the Big East is. That’s what most people concluded, including most of the CBS analysts.
After UConn drubbed Miami, this exchange took place:
Charles Barkley: Listen, I’m shh… (looking baffled and pausing at a loss for words) … when you put their record up there, I’m trying to figure out who the hell beat them 8 times.
Jay Wright: Chuck, they came in 4th place in the Big East this year. 4th place! It tells you how good the Big East was.
Barkley: It does. That was impressive today. Man, they are incredible.
Near the end of the game, Jim Nantz noted the closest UConn game had been 15 points. Bill Raftery replied: “Well, that just tells you how tough the Big East was.”
After crushing all teams in the out-of-conference schedule, UConn was ranked in the top 2. When it got walloped in the Big East, people misinterpreted it to mean it wasn’t even in the top 10. They didn’t realize how strong the Big East was top to bottom. After UConn destroyed #3 seed Gonzaga in the Elite 8, coach Dan Hurley explained why his team was dominating all non-Big East teams in the tourney: “The Big East conference is the best conference in the country, so we went through some struggles. Once we got out of that league and started playing non-conference teams again, we got back to that team that looked like the best team in the country.”
4. Projected to be the best next year
In the majority of polls so far, Marquette and UConn are projected to be top 5 teams next year. Creighton was projected to be top 6, but recently dropped to 10 due to a transfer of a starter. However, Creighton is a highly attractive choice for a high quality transfer who wants a strong shot at a title, plus great exposure from a deep tourney run. If Creighton gets one, it’ll likely be in the top 6 again, and half the projected top 6 will be Big East.
I expect Xavier to have another good season. In addition, Villanova, St. John’s, Georgetown, Seton Hall and Providence all have viable chances of making the tourney depending on what transfers they get.
When Andy Katz released his projections for next season, he said the only thing that’s known is that the Big East will be loaded and ready for a monster season: “Predicting the rosters, let alone the order of rankings in April for the 2023-24 season is nearly impossible with unknown impact of the transfer portal, the NBA Draft early-entry process and more determining where players land. This much we do know: The Big East is going to be loaded and primed for a monster season in some form or fashion.” Three of his top four teams were Big East, and Xavier was #12.
5. All teams have very good hoops traditions
This is admittedly kind of subjective and a whole book could be written on this. But it can be summarized like this: UConn, Marquette, Xavier, Butler and Nova all have strong success over the past 25 years. This includes Xavier having eight Sweet 16s and three Elite 8s, and UConn being possibly the top program. If its Big East exit hadn’t resulted in five down years, it would clearly be the best. Villanova is one of the best 8 programs this century with two championships, four Final 4s and 16 straight tourneys. Overall, it’s made 39 tourneys and its three titles are the 8th most of any team.
Xavier has 29 NCAA appearances while UConn and Marquette each have 35. Marquette achieved the 7th longest streak of weeks (166) ranked in the top 25, at least 75 weeks better than Indiana, Villanova, Michigan State and other great programs. Butler has a very good tradition that includes two Final Fours, two title games and six Sweet 16s. It also plays in one of the most historic college hoops venues: Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Georgetown is one of the three most successful programs in the league. The Hoyas program has more conference titles than Villanova or UConn. Since the start of the Big East, it has finished the season ranked the most times, and is 10th best in the country. It’s also tied with Nova (and ahead of UConn) for the most Player of the Year winners (8 each). Six Hoyas other than Ewing won it. It is 3rd in national titles (16th in the country), and 3rd in Final Four appearances (18th in the country), only one behind UConn and Nova. It’s won four of its five Final 4s, resulting in 4 title games, more than Nova and 10th best in the country. It has 31 tourney bids and nine Elite 8s.
Its history of success is so strong that it’s a major reason why Ed Cooley left a high-paying job with a successful team to take over a last-place team. It’s probably also why in less than three weeks as Georgetown’s coach, he was able to land five 4-star recruits, something he couldn’t do at Providence.
I sat down with Ed Cooley to discuss why he took the Georgetown job, why he left Providence, the process of the last week and what he believes is possible with the Hoyas program going forward. The FOX Sports exclusive: pic.twitter.com/heuocDFDLn— John Fanta (@John_Fanta) March 23, 2023
For those who falsely claim Georgetown has stunk since the 1980s, in the 33 years since then, they’ve had 17 tourney bids, five Sweet 16s, two Elite 8s and a Final 4. That’s as many Sweet 16s and Elite 8s as Creighton’s whole history. The Hoyas also won six Big East regular season championships (18% of them) and two tourney titles. In this century, they’ve spent more weeks ranked than Michigan, Alabama, Oregon, Houston, Missouri, LSU, USC, Iowa, Wake, OK State and lots of other good programs.
Providence has 22 bids, four Elite 8s, two Final 4s and three Big East titles. With 7 tourneys and its only regular season title, Ed Cooley significantly added to Providence’s long-term resume. What he should be able to do with Georgetown’s tradition and strengths is exciting, and he’s off to a great start. The strengths include a top 25 academic ranking, a huge media market, a big number of former pro players, a big arena, a nice campus, an amazing city, great weather, a high-powered alumni network, an excellent education and a highly valuable diploma. The latter three are very helpful for the 35 to 40 years of work most players will need to do when their hoops careers end between the ages of 25 and 30.
St. John’s has 29 bids, six Elite 8s, two Final 4s and eight Big East titles. That makes a very good tradition, and one Pitino will likely revive. Seton Hall has six Big East titles, four Sweet 16s, two Elite 8s, one Final 4 and one title game it lost in OT by only a point. It’s been ranked 134 weeks. Despite recent weakness, DePaul’s historic resume is very good. It has 22 tourneys, ten Sweet 16s, two Final 4s and 156 weeks ranked.
The NIT was the top tourney from 1939 to the mid-50’s, so NIT titles and Final 4s from those years should count for something. That would kind of add 3 title games and 2 titles to St. Johns, 2 title games and 1 title to DePaul and 1 title to Seton Hall. For another 10 years it was still a strong tourney, and current Big East teams won half (St. Johns 2, Providence 2 and Xavier 1). Of course those carry far less weight.
The Pac-12 has no notable success in the past 25 years. It hasn’t won even one title. Its number of bids is often as low as non-power 6 leagues. With UCLA and USC leaving soon and the Pac-12 being so weak for so long, it shouldn’t be considered a power-6 league in hoops. Multiple leagues are rumored to be aiming to raid it further.
In all other leagues, there are multiple teams that have much weaker hoops traditions than even the weakest of the Big East ones. In the Big 10, Penn State, Minnesota, Rutgers, Nebraska and Northwestern have only 10, 10, 8, 7 and 2 bids respectively. The latter two have never made it past the 2nd round. In their entire histories, the number of weeks Rutgers, Nebraska, Penn State and Northwestern were ranked is only 38, 34, 25 and 17 weeks respectively. 110 other programs are better, including a lot of weak ones.
In the SEC, Auburn, Miss State, Georgia, South Carolina and Ole Miss have only 12, 12, 10, 9 and 9 bids respectively. Georgia has only made it past the opening weekend twice. Ole Miss has only one Sweet 16 and never gone further. It and Georgia are only 105th and 94th in number of weeks ranked. In the Big 12, TCU has only 10 bids and is 99th in number of weeks ranked. The Big East team with the fewest weeks ranked, Creighton, is about 100% better in that and 150% better in number of bids with 25. Incoming Even worse, UCF has only 5 bids, never made it past opening weekend and been ranked a pathetic 5 weeks.
In the ACC, Virginia Tech and Clemson have only 13 and 12 bids, and no Final 4. Miami has only 12 bids and until this year, it had never reached the Final 4. Its tradition is so weak it dissolved its team from 1971 to 1985. When its 73-old coach retires, it’s very iffy whether it will do well. While the ACC has some great traditions, it has weak ones and is not as strong throughout as the Big East.
6. The only power conference that’s basketball-centric
Not a lot needs to be said here. Basketball-centric is an under-statement. Only one of the 11 schools even has a D-1 football team. At that school, UConn, football doesn’t come remotely close to basketball in popularity. This is so true that the school took a big cut in revenue just so its basketball team could be in the Big East. Besides the lost revenue, it means the football team has no conference, making it harder to schedule games, and giving it no chance of even competing for a national title.
After its new basketball championship, coach Hurley said: “Obviously basketball is a big deal to the people of Connecticut. Men’s and women’s basketball, it’s the pro sports team of the state, and you just see the incredible pride that people have in their Huskies. It’s literally basketball country.” At 100% of the Big East schools, football takes a major back seat to basketball. The hoops players easily get the limelight over football players.
7. The best current set of coaches
The strong hoops traditions of Big East schools and its basketball focus has allowed it to attract numerous high quality coaches in the past and present. For example, UConn’s dominance of the NCAA the last 25 years has not depended on just one coach, but rather three of them. Besides UConn, only three other schools — Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina — have won titles under three different head coaches. Of them, only UConn has had three of its coaches in a row win titles.
While this is the most subjective measure because many active coaches are only part-way through their careers, I think the Big East now has the best set of coaches in the country. This is due to two sizable upgrades in the past few weeks. St. John’s went from having an average coach to having the most successful still-active coach in the country, Rick Pitino. He has also coached for several years in the NBA.
Often times, coaches have called the Big East a family. But no family goes without fights & drama. The conference has that now in a big way, while two brand programs are on the national radar and three others are in the Sweet 16. My column on a wild week: https://t.co/RGPzEQEs1t— John Fanta (@John_Fanta) March 23, 2023
Most of us Hoya fans love and respect Patrick Ewing as the greatest Hoya and one of the best college players of all time. He made the program what it became, and John Thompson would not have done it without him. While Ewing may be a very good NBA coach, where most players are ambitious and willing to do whatever it takes to win, he seemingly wasn’t well-suited to coaching college kids. For that reason, I think Kim English at Providence is likely a sizable upgrade for the league overall.
Cooley is an excellent coach, as evidenced by his being national Coach of the Year last year, his turning around both Fairfield and Providence, his consistent success at Providence and how sad Providence fans were about his going. I’m not going to go through the other eight coaches because there isn’t room for it. But the Big East being the best in the country this season speaks for itself. Furthermore, as Bill Raftery said during this tourney: the league “is only going to get tougher” due to the coaching upgrades.
UConn’s Hurley said Cooley at Georgetown and Pitino at St. John’s will make the league even stronger in multiple ways. He said: “It’s great for the league. Those games have been like, at best, Quad 2 games and at worst Quad 3 and 4 games, and programs of that stature, in terms of the brand, it’s important for overall strength of the league. I think it will make the games more exciting, more eyeballs on it. Viewership will go up. Excitement for the games will go up. I don’t think the league gets as much credit as it probably should get as being one of the top basketball leagues in the country, top two or three every single year. But a strong Georgetown and strong St. John’s will help with that.”
8. The two best recruiting grounds
The DC-Maryland-Virginia region (known as the DMV) and the tri-state New York area (including northern NJ and half of CT) are widely considered to be the two most fertile recruiting areas in the country. For example, Maryland produces the highest percentage of college basketball recruits of any state in the country.
The Big East has schools directly in those areas, plus has many schools within a 4-hour drive of them. Also, if a player goes to any Big East school, they know their family and friends can see them play live at least twice a year within a 90-minute drive: Georgetown and Villanova for the DMV and St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova for the tri-state area. They can also fairly easily attend the annual tourney.
Moreover, the Big East is the high major league closest to the New England prep schools like Lawrence Academy where Shabazz Napier starred before bringing UConn a national championship. Those schools attract strong hoops talent including top-60 recruit Kayvaun Mulready and top-90 recruit Rowan Brumbaugh, both recent Hoya commits. Before prep school, Rowan was originally from DC in the DMV. New England public schools also have some talent. Pennsylvania and Delaware are also solid.
9. The best conference tournament in multiple ways
No one can do this criteria any better justice than Dan Wezel’s legendary description of why the Big East Tournament is easily the best conference tourney in the country. If you’ve never read it, do yourself a favor and read it now. Last month, Sport’s Illustrated’s senior college writer Pat Forde said the BET “remains one of the centerpieces of the sport, a bright-lights, big-city basketball bacchanal that carries its own unique charisma.” With top quality teams, the level of competition should continue to be top flight: as good as or better than the average NCAA tourney game.
With UConn back in the league, St. Johns and Georgetown slated to return to competitiveness, and NY-adjacent programs Villanova, Seton Hall and Providence likely to remain competitive, the level of excitement will be high. With Marquette, Xavier and Creighton now regularly capable of reaching the semi-finals and even winning it, I expect more and more of their fans to hop a flight to cheer their teams on. Once fans see their team reach the semi-finals or title game live at Madison Square Garden, they usually want to go back.
10. Three options for the final reason
A) The Big East is the only power-6 conference that doesn’t have to deal with ongoing conference re-alignment commotion. If a player goes to a Big East school, he’ll basically know what he’s getting for the conference. There won’t be multiple teams exiting or showing up. The league won’t be switching from one division to two, and then back to one again. The in-league opponents won’t change every few years.
B) It will be the only power-6 league (or one of only two) with teams playing all league teams twice a year. The Big 12 will probably return to 12 teams in two years. It likely won’t play all teams twice because that would generally limit each team to just 7 to 10 OOC games. If a team doesn’t or can’t join a Multi-Team Event, it is limited to only 7 OOC games. If it joins a MTE, it usually is limited to 9 or 10 OOC games because most MTEs have 2-3 games per team. Playing all teams twice has advantages, including: a) it helps various rivalries develop; b) the better teams always match up twice; and c) the champion is clearly the champ because everyone has the same schedule.
C) It has a very high percentage of games on nationwide TV. Even with Georgetown being in the cellar the last two years, almost all of its games were on Fox and CBS channels. That’s similar for all league teams. lf someone is a fan, they can see most games on nationwide channels. Also, if a player goes to a Big East school, his family members can view most of his games on TV. If you have information on TV coverage of the other leagues, please share it in the comments. Wikipedia says the Big 10 Network only broadcasts 10 a year for some teams, and a maximum of 20 for others. How much of their other games are carried by nationwide channels? What’s the coverage like for other leagues?
The many ways Big East success helps Georgetown
Perhaps the biggest benefit of Big East success to Georgetown is recruiting. Recruits tend to gravitate towards the best conference for numerous reasons. They want to play against the best because it improves their own games and makes them more likely to have a lengthy pro career, whether in the US or overseas. They also want to play in the conference that is most likely to win a national title.
They also like the spotlight that shines on the best conference. Likewise, they want to play in games that matter on the national level – including multiple opportunities per year to upset ranked teams or to play against a recent national champ. Players also like being able to say they’re in the best conference.
Proof of this is UConn went from a down and out program that wasn’t making the tourney to winning the national title in large measure because being in the Big East helped them recruit better players. As the headline of an article by long-time Huskies columnist Paul Doyle said: “No Big East move, no UConn championship? That’s what Geno Auriemma thinks.” Auriemma has won 10 of the last 23 national titles as coach of the women’s team. He knows a ton about what’s needed to win a title.
UConn AD David Benedict agreed: “This validates more what we’ve been doing over the last five years to get to this point, and the Big East without question was a huge part of it.” He said it was harder to recruit players or keep fans interested when UConn was not in the Big East, and as soon as it returned, “things began to change.” Within months of announcing its return, Andre Jackson, Jr., Adama Sanogo and Jordan Hawkins decided to play for UConn, and were key in winning this title. Bill Raftery agreed the Big East was key: “Moving into this Big East conference, the recruiting level has stepped up, and obviously the competition in the league has forced them to become a terrific basketball program.” Charles Barkley said: “you gotta take your hat off to … the AD at UConn. He did a great job getting them back into the Big East….”
League success also helps Georgetown financially. The Big East earned 15 units in this year’s tourney. As a result, it will receive about $30 million in NCAA payouts, $2.72 million per school, during the next six seasons. That’s over double what the league had budgeted: 7 units and just $14 million. That’s nearly $1.5 million extra per school. You get 1 unit per team in, and 1 per win excluding the last two rounds. The Big East acheived 15 units with only 5 bids. With it being seen as the best conference, it should get between 6 and 8 bids in most years to come. Similar to how the Big 12 got 7 of its 10 teams in this year, resulting in 16 units though it went just 9-7. More bids could result in bigger payouts.
Also, there is considerable talk that the Big East should get a bigger TV contract when it comes up for renewal in the near future due to its success and prominence. ESPN recently published an article headlined “The evolution of the Big East sets up a basketball revolution.” It describes how the Big East’s recent success plus the moves of Pitino and Cooley have it “surging toward … another era of prominence.” The word “another” refers to its dominance of college basketball in the 1980s and part of the 90s.
“We hope this is a perfect storm for us,” Big East commissioner Val Ackerman told ESPN. “All of these factors are combining to put us in the best possible position. …. I do think that we have the notion that this could help elevate the relative value of basketball to football and other sports. That’s a real prospect for us. To test that worth.” The ESPN article also talked about the potential of women’s hoops to bring in sizable TV revenue now that fan interest in women’s games has increased. In the past, those games were “thrown into” the Big East TV contract for almost nothing. Now they could help boost the contract, especially because the league’s female teams are flourishing.
This season 5 teams were ranked, and 4 were ranked at the same time for the first time since before the new Big East. It got 5 NCAA bids and went 7-5 (.583) this year. St. John’s and Marquette lost by only 2 and Villanova by only 5, so the league came close to doing even better. 7 of its teams were in the top 70 in the NET ratings, so it’s deep.
The UConn AD told ESPN its women’s games now get better ratings in the NY market than some pro teams. It also has star power with three Player of the Year contenders that include the #1 scorer and 4th highest scorer in the country at Villanova and DePaul. Besides those 3, the Big East also had 2 of the 5 best point guards. Star players tend to draw in viewers. Ackerman was the founding president of the WNBA so she’s well equipped to tap into the growing value of the women’s game.
Also, the Big East being the best hoops conference is good for students. They get to say they’re in the best conference. It results in them getting to see higher quality teams. It also increases excitement. More people will almost definitely turn out for next year’s UConn game both to see the national men’s champs in person, but also watch the Hoyas try to score a major upset against them. Added excitement at the BET is also good for Hoya fans who go.
It could also add to the quantity of applicants to the school, as a portion of high schoolers would like to be part of the best hoops conference. Of course, being a top-25 school with a great education on a lovely campus in a great city make it a major draw already. But having a competitive hoops team in the best league further adds to the appeal.
Overall, it’s been a great year for the Big East in multiple ways. Most of the factors that have made it the best basketball league still exist and should result in continued strong success for many years to come. Let’s hope the Hoyas play a major role in that success, and let’s try to pitch in to help make it possible.