This is not a soliloquy about how the Big East is restoring itself to glory or returning to its roots. I’m not going to say anything like “The Big East is back!” If you want a history lesson about the conference, go watch ESPN’s 30 for 30 on it. Forget the history and lore for a moment. Think about how much fun the Big East is right now.
"This is one of the most special moments of my life. It's going to happen for St. John's, and it's going to happen in a big way."
Rick Pitino on how he plans to build a culture at St. John's: pic.twitter.com/YTM3Db8DMW
— SNY (@SNYtv) March 21, 2023
“It’s not about when or if. It’s going to happen for St. John’s and it’s going to happen in a big way,” Rick Pitino said in his opening press conference for St. John’s. Rick Pitino is all but guaranteeing that the Johnnies are going to be a factor in the national conversation, let alone the conference.
It’s not lost on us that Big East commissioner Val Ackerman was on the dais in Queens. She wasn’t in that spot for Shaheen Holloway’s intro presser at Seton Hall last season or Ed Cooley’s at Georgetown on Wednesday. Pitino going back the to Big East — and at St. John’s no less — is huge news for the conference.
Folks like Ackerman and other higher-ups in the conference have been waiting for someone to bring the Red Storm back into the national spotlight. There are a lot of colorful ways to describe Pitino, but “winner” needs to be at the top of the list. It’s hard to doubt the Johnnies now that Pitino is at the helm.
Although Pitino’s leap from Iona to St. John’s is the major coaching carousel headline, don’t forget about Ed Cooley picking Georgetown over Providence. By all accounts, Georgetown is the better job (money, resources, brand, prestige, etc.). Still, jumping to another school in the conference can’t be an easy pill for Friar fans to swallow. To add insult to injury, Cooley used an interesting turn-of-phrase to describe his decision.
“It is Divine Providence that I’m here. I needed a change. I wouldn’t change unless it provided an unbelievable opportunity.”
– Ed Cooley
— John Fanta (@John_Fanta) March 22, 2023
There is hope in Queens and D.C after the coaching changes. Meanwhile, there is a ton of hate in Providence. Hope and hate are two ingredients for compelling college basketball. But aside from Providence’s hate for Cooley, they are bringing in an up-and-comer in Kim English to take over the program. There is still reason to be hopeful in Rhode Island.
And let’s not gloss over the fact that the conference has three teams left in the NCAA Tournament — Creighton, UConn, and Xavier. One school that’s home from March Madness, Marquette, is coming off of a conference tournament and regular season championship. The top of the Big East is strong.
Although Villanova might not be able to regain Jay Wright’s iron grip over the conference, they should be able to dust themselves off and become a factor once again. Holloway will be in year two at Seton Hall, a program that was a perennial NCAA Tournament team under Kevin Willard. But if Cooley and Pitino can turn around their respective programs, the Big East is going to be downright silly.
That’s nine schools that should at least be competitive year in and year out. DePaul is DePaul and Butler faces an uphill battle as well. Sorry to fans of those schools, but it would be surprising to see either become a consistent contender in the Big East.
Northeast basketball fans have this annoying habit of comparing everything to the old days. Stop bearhugging nostalgia and smell the roses. For once, try and give the present a chance to stand on its own. This could be the best conference in America next season.
The Big East is back. Dammit, I said it.
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