By David Heim
Just two years ago the Big East was torn apart…blown up…completely gutted.
The rich basketball program saw cornerstone programs like Syracuse, Notre Dame, South Florida, Louisville, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Rutgers and Pittsburgh all leave for greener ($$$) pastures and join other conferences.
The true Big East that had dominated the college basketball world since its conception back in 1979 was no more.
In 2013, those premier departing schools above were replaced by less-flashier names like Creighton, Butler and Xavier.
But the new Big East is far from hurting. In fact, it is thriving. 2015 saw six teams from the conference receive a bid in the NCAA Tournament.
Villanova has taken over as the class of the conference, and even received a number-one seed in this year’s tournament. Georgetown (4), Xavier (6), Providence (6), Butler (6), and St. John’s (9) also all received bids in this year’s field of 68.
Out of the eight teams that dipped back in 2013, guess how many made the tournament?
Three. Three out of 8.
Only Notre Dame (3), Louisville (4) and Cincinnati (8) are still playing.
The rest of the bunch: Syracuse, South Florida, UConn, Rutgers and Pittsburgh are not.
Not only did those teams not make the Big Dance, but most of them had abysmal 2014-15 seasons. (We’ll give UConn a break, who are fresh off a national championship in 2014).
But Syracuse finished 18-13 in the ACC; middle of the pack. On top of that, they were deemed ineligible for postseason play due to ongoing scandals revolving around head coach Jim Boeheim and athletic director Daryl Gross. In the same conference, Pittsburgh finished 19-15, also middle of the pack.
Both Rutgers and South Florida finished in the basement of their respective conferences, the American conference and the Big Ten conference.
The bottom line is the Big East by all means is not hurting. Yes, powerhouses like Syracuse, Louisville and Notre Dame leaving allows for teams like Providence and St. John’s to get in the tournament, but it has also allowed a perennial competitive college basketball conference to regain its true form.
Most of the teams that left are sitting at home watching the NCAA Tournament, but 60 percent of the Big East is alive and dancing.
David Heim is a contributing intern for CBS Local Sports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @davidheim12.