Three Years Later Big East Remains A Powerhouse
Since the inception of the Big East in 1979, the conference consistently ranks among the most competitive athletic conferences in the nation. The original Catholic Seven schools include Georgetown, DePaul, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Villanova.
Over time, the Big East has gradually changed, with schools entering and dropping over the years. However, in 2013, the conference experienced an unparalleled shift.
Syracuse, Notre Dame, Louisville and Pittsburgh left the conference in order to prioritize their football programs. Meanwhile, Georgetown, among other schools, claimed the Big East name and formed a basketball-first league. While the Big East lost those four schools, Butler and Xavier were added from the Atlantic 10 conference, as was Creighton from the Missouri Valley conference.
Since the restructuring in 2013, the No. 4 Villanova Wildcats have finished atop the Big East the past three seasons, winning the NCAA championship last year over No. 6 North Carolina. En route to their national title, the Wildcats accrued an overall record of 35-5 and 16-2 in Big East play. In addition to Villanova, other schools, including No. 7 Xavier and No. 22 Creighton rank in the top of 25 of the AP Poll.
Despite the formation of a new Big East over the past three years, men’s basketball continues to maintain a high level of competition. In his 12th season this year, Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III believes the conference will keep its edge as always, proving itself as one of the best in the nation.
“Three years ago, going through this whole thing of, ‘Oh, what’s happening to the Big East, the Big East isn’t going to be the same. The Big East is going away,’” Thompson said. “I said, and most of the coaches said, and not just said, believed, ‘We’re not going anywhere.’ Top to bottom, I think we are the best basketball conference.”
Despite the stiff competition, 6-foot-8 junior forward and Louisville transfer Akoy Agau, who will play his first season for the Hoyas, is confident in his team’s ability regardless of pre-season rankings.
“We can compete. I think our conference can compete with any conference in the country, and I think this conference is going to be better than it was last year, and that’s pretty scary to say,” Agau said.
Every team in the Big East plays a high level of basketball, making no game a guarantee, according to Thompson.
“If you’re talking about the sport of basketball, there’s a Big Six, and the Big East is in that, and that’s not going to change. There are so many good coaches, there are so many good players, and it’s just like always. Someone has to be picked number one, someone has to be picked number ten, but there’s not much difference on any given night between those,” Thompson said.
After the team’s record of 15-18 overall and 7-11 in conference last year, Georgetown looks to make amends.
“It was one of the worst seasons in Georgetown history,” sophomore center Jessie Govan said of 2015-16. “We don’t want to have that again. We’re rejuvenated, we’re energized this year, and our guys are hungry.”
(Cover Photo courtesy Guthrie Angeles)