One of the college basketball internet’s favorite things is talking about the old Big East. That’s not surprising. One of its favorite things used to be talking about the old Big East when it was around, too.
So it comes as no surprise that for the second straight year, we’re playing the game of “look how bad all of the old Big East powers are.”
Four former mainstays atop the old Big East --- Syracuse, UConn, Pitt, and Georgetown --- have a combined record of 54-62 this season. Nothing is forever folks.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) February 27, 2018
As MANY a Syracuse Orange fan were quick to point out to CBS/FanRagU’s Jon Rothstein, SU is 4-0 against those teams this year. Also, the Pittsburgh Panthers are 8-22, making up a reasonably large percentage of the losses he counts up. Oh, and the Orange are the only team in this group contending for an NCAA Tournament bid right now.
That’s not to say Syracuse is without struggle this year (and last). But to equate Syracuse’s troubles to those of the other three is simply dishonest.
It’s an easy narrative for media, I guess, the fallen idols of the old power in the shadow of mostly Villanova. But as well all know, there’s more to it.
For Syracuse, over-the-top sanctions and unexpected departures have thrown the program for a loop (though the 2016 Final Four helps bury some of that). Pitt lost arguably the best coach in its history, and then hired the worst while most of its players transferred.
Georgetown hung onto John Thompson III for a couple seasons too long. UConn’s been harmed the most by conference realignment, losing the center of its recruiting base to a geographically disparate league and dealing with a few too many recruits not working out as planned.
This is not to create excuses for our long-time rivals. It’s to point out that while Rothstein’s right that nothing lasts forever, it goes for rough spells too. And as it happens, all four programs named here are a step or two away from repair. Even Pitt, staring into the abyss, can just fire Kevin Stallings and hit reset. UConn can probably fix things just by switching conferences (just ask @NoEscalators).
As for us, you know we have a nice recruiting class coming in for 2018, plus the availability of Elijah Hughes and who knows how much of this year’s active team returning as well. That doesn’t mean we’re a title contender next season. But with luck, the depth issues are gone and we’re back to being something like a top-25 program again.
The reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated here, and elsewhere too. And the same goes for Georgetown, UConn and Pitt, too. College basketball’s still top-heavy, but the top is deeper than it’s ever been. That means it’s easy to drop off, but also easy to jump right back up. Whether in the same conference or different ones, it’s very likely all of these programs are jumping back up pretty soon.