National Columnist

Big East's basketball schools are in danger of being run over by realignment

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You're better than this, St. John's. So are you, Georgetown. And you, Seton Hall. And Providence. And Villanova. All of you are better than what the Big East -- not merely your conference, but the conference you created -- is doing to you.

But you list along during conference realignment like fish on an oil slick, endangered to the point of extinction, too sick or scared to do anything about it. It's pathetic. You're some of the last remaining members of the Big East as it was so boldly founded in 1979 -- Villanova joined in 1980; close enough -- and you're better than pathetic. Or you should be.

But you're not listening, so no more talking to you. I'll talk about you now, which puts me in the minority, because hardly anybody is talking about St. John's or Georgetown or the other basketball-oriented schools of the Big East. Not as it relates to conference realignment, anyway. Football is driving it. Basketball is coming along for the ride.

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Except for basketball in the Big East, which is being run over.

The Big East is the last to know it, but that's how it usually is. The closer you are to a situation, the more warped your vision -- and the Big East looks blind. The league has assumed a strategy of quantity over quality, adding a mish-mash of illogical schools in a failing effort to stay relevant, and schools like St. John's and Georgetown are taking it. Just letting it happen. And for the life of me, I can't figure out why.

The writing is on the wall. Everyone, and I mean everyone, can see the end game here. Eventually the NCAA will be split by football -- schools that play it at the Division I-A level on one side, everyone else on the other.

Know where that leaves St. John's, Georgetown, Villanova, Seton Hall and Providence? On the wrong side.

But still they flail along, these fish on this oil slick, as their conference extends one silly invitation after another. Boise State? San Diego State? Tulane? That's ridiculous. Adding TCU was ridiculous, too, but ridiculous became pathetic when TCU left the Big East before it even played a conference game, accepting an offer instead from the Big 12.

West Virginia is gone to the Big 12, Rutgers will go to the Big Ten and Notre Dame and Louisville are headed to the ACC. Those schools were carpet-baggers, their departure no surprise, but Big East founding members Boston College and Syracuse and mainstay Pittsburgh also fled for the security offered by the ACC. Founding member Connecticut would love to flee as well. It's just waiting for the ACC to pop the question.

Big East commissioner Mike Aresco is fighting fire with empty talk, putting out quotes like this one Tuesday about the Big East's addition of Tulane.

"Tulane is on the verge of making a real mark," Aresco said.

A few weeks ago when Aresco announced a divisional alignment that would split the league into the Big East East and Big East West -- no, really -- he said it "gives the conference and its fans the best of both worlds -- national exposure that is a result of the Big East being in six of the top 10 U.S. media markets [and] a schedule that focuses on spirited regional rivalries."

Boise State vs. San Diego State, closer to each other than to anyone else in the Big East, and still 1,000 miles apart. Memphis vs. Tulane. East Carolina vs. anybody.

Those rivalries aren't spirited today, won't be tomorrow, won't be -- ever.

Meanwhile, St. John's just takes it. So do Georgetown and the Big East's other non-football schools, schools with something SMU and Central Florida and Tulane don't have in a marquee sport: Tradition. Prestige. Accomplishment. Georgetown and Villanova have won national titles in men's basketball. St. John's, Providence and Seton Hall have made a combined five Final Four appearances. These schools stand for something, or they did.

Now they stand around, watching expansion happen to them. Every school that can leave the Big East, has. Schools that can't get invitations to other BCS leagues continue to join the Big East to build themselves up, and then -- like Virginia Tech, Miami (Fla.), West Virginia, Rutgers and Louisville -- make a run at a better league. Actual headline in the Cincinnati Enquirer on Wednesday, one day after the ACC picked Louisville and not the Cincinnati Bearcats: "UC remains stuck in the Big East."

New motto for Big East: You're stuck here!

Meanwhile, league originals like St. John's and Georgetown are living in fear, attaching themselves to Big East football like a sucker fish on a shark, hoping to survive. It's a shortsighted strategy based on fear. Instead of forming a coalition of five -- think of five fingers becoming one fist -- and telling the Big East what to do, Villanova and Providence and the others are doing as they're told. How's that working out, Seton Hall?

Meanwhile, the Atlantic 10 is firming up its basketball. The A-10 has added VCU and Butler to the likes of Xavier, Richmond and Saint Joseph's. The A-10 knows what it is, and is trying to get stronger. The Big East knows what it wants to be, but doesn't realize it'll never get there. And so it becomes weaker. Every few days, it seems, another relevant school leaves or another irrelevant school joins. The Big East is a haphazard collection of useless junk. It started out as a designer boutique of basketball; now it's Kmart.

And like that savant said in Rain Man: Kmart sucks.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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