Tag:Big East
Posted on: February 11, 2009 3:12 pm
Edited on: February 11, 2009 4:15 pm

Dear Gary (on the Big East and perspective)

Here's Wednesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: Although I agree that the Big East is a good conference, to constantly hear about how it eclipses every other conference is a crock of Notre Dame. UCLA beat Notre Dame by 29 points, and -- since I just checked the record -- NO BIG EAST SCHOOL BEAT NOTRE DAME BY A LARGER MARGIN OR EVEN CAME CLOSE. ... I am neither a Pac 10 fan or a Big East fan, but numbers are numbers. ... The situation with the Big East reminds me of last year's ACC hoopla.  Everyone said the ACC couldn't be touched, but by the Sweet 16, the chaff had blown away, which left only the TOP of most of the conferences. Doesn't that lead us to believe that in fact to continually tout one conference as "Supreme" is not only unfair but absolutely untrue. Parity is parity. With respect, (I continually read your column).

-- Lindsay

I think you make a lot of sense here, Lindsay.

But let me say this: When people talk about how "tough" the Big East is, or whatever, I don't sense anybody is pretending the league has teams that cannot be touched. Rather, I think the point is simply that the Big East -- and this is debatable now, I know --has more good teams than the other leagues, and that's it. I'm sure everybody still understands the best teams in the other leagues -- UCLA in the Pac-10, Oklahoma in the Big 12, North Carolina in the ACC, etc. -- are every bit as good as the best teams in the Big East. And using that theory as a guide, what should happen in any NCAA tournament is that the fourth, fifth and sixth teams from the Big East should start to disappear as we move forward, leaving only the best one or two (or maybe even three) along with representatives from the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, SEC, ACC and a few non-BCS leagues, too.

That's the nature of the tournament.

That's usually how it goes.

But, to me, that doesn't mean that playing a tough Big East schedule isn't the scariest thing in college basketball, because I believe the Big East schedule is primarily responsible for destroying what were at one time good seasons for Georgetown and Notre Dame, and that if Georgetown and Notre Dame played in the SEC West they'd both be in the Top 25 and by extension safely in the NCAA tournament. But they don't play in the SEC West; they play in the Big East, and that's a tough thing to do these days, even for what should on paper be very good teams.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 10, 2009 8:45 pm

Can Villanova get back to .500 in the Big East?

Terrence Williams got into the lane, put the ball on the rim, watched it fall through and gave the Louisville Cardinals a huge road win, you know, the kind that are hard to come by in the Big East. So then Rick Pitino held a press conference and talked about it all, and my favorite quote was the following quote:

"I've looked forward to this year more than any other," Pitino told reporters after the 61-60 victory at Villanova. "You'll never see 12, 13 teams as tough as this. It's special, I'll tell you that. I'm getting the hell out of here after this year, I'm telling you that."

I'm sure Conference USA would welcome him back.

(Start the Pitino-to-Houston rumors now!)

But in all seriousness, what we learned Saturday -- in addition to that the Cards might be getting on track after a dismal start to the season -- is that the Big East is going to continue to be just as tough as everybody has long believed, if not tougher, and can you imagine how Villanova's Jay Wright must feel? He was that close to moving to 2-1 in the league; all he needed was a couple of free throws or a tip-in at the buzzer. But he got neither. So now he's 1-2 in the league with two of his next four against Connecticut and Pittsburgh, which is why you can't give away home victories in this conference, because before you blink you'll be chasing .500 with no good places to catch-up.

As proof, consider: Villanova (13-3 overall, 1-2 in the Big East) must beat either No. 5 Connecticut on Jan. 21 or No. 1 Pitt on Jan. 28, or else it is guaranteed to be below .500 in the league heading into February. There's no away around that fact. The Wildcats can't get back to .500 in the Big East before February without beating a top five team. So you can understand why Wright said "this game kills you" when he was asked to reflect on the defeat, because now he's chasing .500, and it's going to be hard as hell to get there.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: December 9, 2008 1:46 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2008 4:09 pm

Dear Gary (on the paranoia of a Big East fan)

I mentioned yesterday that I had traded emails with a Big East fan, and that I might introduce him in Tuesday's Dear Gary. So that's what I'm doing. He sent a note, I responded, and then he responded to me. And now I'll just let you guys tell me how to handle it from here.

So without further ado, here's Tuesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: Pitt is seventh in your poll (seventh last week; now the Panthers are fifth). Really? How can a team that wins the Big East last year and brings back the core (of that) team this year not be ranked higher than seventh? You are probably a Big East hater that goes after the smallest market in the northeast to try and make the rest of the conferences look less inferior. The agenda seems to be to discredit the Big East by making the top tier teams appear to be over-ranked. This ploy is sad because Pitt this year will be a contender, and had Pitt not been injury prone last year it would not have been boned by the selection committee yet again. (I'm) tired of jackasses like Parrish having an opinion that seems politically motivated. If his opinion was not politically motivated (then) how does the weeny justify (Pitt's ranking)? Perhaps the winning of the past eight years would have helped give the benefit to a higher rank! Good luck, Gary. You are now a Dickie V Baby with an overt agenda!

-- Rob


So I could've just ignored him.

But I'm not good at that.

So I replied like this:

Exactly. I'm a Big East hater. That's why I had seven Big East teams ranked in the top 16 of my preseason rankings. You know, one day, you guys will smarten up and realize that most of us don't have agendas outside of just trying to be right. I mean, why on earth would I hate Pitt? You couldn't name one reason. But whatever. Carry on with your wild ideas. They're wrong and insane, of course. But that doesn't make them any less amusing.

All the best.


Naturally, Rob had to respond.

Here's what he wrote:

Dear Gary: Please save your BS for the mentally impaired morons that do not understand the politics at play when NCAA tournament time begins. OK, you had seven Big East teams ranked at the start of season, and if things go south which is what every other conference cheerleader, err, sports writer is hoping for to undermine the credibility of the league. I worry that conference AD's will use referees to help win games, NCAA selection committees will make it harder on the Big East by longer travel and lower seeds, and writers and media will pander to these conferences by jumping all over the Big East if they do not perform up to the hype by "guys" like you.  I agree that you want to be right but you are also hedging your bet because if you are wrong then you can win by attacking the Big East. The fact that you responded to my email means that I hit a nerve and that makes me more critical because if it was gibberish why respond? I get it when media peeps like you use code phrases like Pitt is "physical" and they "muscle in the middle" as if to indicate or foreshadow that Pitt will be susceptible to a sh-tload of fouls, and that way a fast whistle can slow down Pitt's explosive offense. I listen to other schmucks like Joe Lunardi (ESPN's St. Joe's cheerleader) talk about how big the Big East is and says that eight teams is not a big thing if they get into the dance. That is code for recruits to be skeptical of playing for the lower-tier teams because the chance for a ticket to the dance is hard. You "guys" can use all the tricks in the books and the Big East will survive regardless!

-- Rob

Wow, huh?

So to recap, it appears Rob believes I hate the Big East, and that I only called the Big East the best conference in America and ranked seven Big East teams in the preseason Top 25 (and one) because I am raising expectations in an attempt to undermine the league in a way that will lead to conference AD's using referees to help win games and the selection committee screwing the Big East in terms of travel and lower seeds. Also, my kind words are just a set-up so that I can "attack" the Big East at the proper time. Beyond that, he's certain I also hate Pitt, specifically, and that I've targeted the school because it's in a small market (is Pittsburgh a small market?), and nevermind that I wrote this nice column about Jamie Dixon a few months ago and have consistently sung his praises.

Anyway, you be the judge.

Am I trying to undermine the Big East?

Or is Rob just insane?

Posted on: December 1, 2008 12:40 pm

Dear Gary (on the Big East's weekend losses)

Here's Monday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: I understand the Big East is good; don’t get me wrong. But Louisville lost to Western Kentucky in the same week a fairly weak Kentucky team knocked-off West Virginia. Does this hurt the Big East at all?

-- Kevin

It's obviously not good.

But if the question is whether this suggests the Big East might not be the nation's best league, then I the answer is absolutely not. The Big East is still stronger than any other conference, and even though West Virginia and Marquette took questionable losses, and Louisville took one that is inexplicable, those have been offset by Syracuse having a week in which it beat Florida and Kansas, Cincinnati winning at UNLV and Connecticut destroying everybody. Plus, Seton Hall is off to a 5-1 start with wins over Virginia Tech and Southern California. So the Big East is fine, and my guess is that it's still on track to earn the previously predicted nine at-large bids.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: November 14, 2008 3:16 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2008 3:48 pm

Dear Gary (on Big East coaches)

Here's Friday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: We all know the Big East is full of great programs and players. In your opinion, who is the best coach?

-- Lorne

A nice, simple question.

I like it, Lorne.

Anyway, by my count there are three coaches with national titles in the Big East, namely Jim Calhoun (UConn), Rick Pitino (Louisville) and Jim Boeheim (Syracuse). So while I think Bob Huggins (West Virginia) is a Hall of Famer and Jay Wright (Villanova), Jamie Dixon (Pittsburgh), John Thompson III (Georgetown) and Mike Brey (Notre Dame) are all established winners, it's probably right to stick to the group of men with rings when trying to establish the best of the Big East.

That means I'm down to Calhoun, Pitino and Boeheim.

All three are Hall of Famers.

But with a gun to my head I'd probably go with Pitino, because he's won at a high-level at three very different schools and there's no telling how many national titles the guy might have if he had never done two stints in the NBA. As it is, he's still got one national title (at Kentucky), and he's been to five Final Fours with three different schools (Providence, Kentucky and Louisville). That's pretty remarkable. And when you consider he's got another team this season that could challenge for a sixth Final Four and second national title, well, I don't think you can go wrong putting Pitino at the top of the list.

Agree or disagree?
Posted on: November 10, 2008 10:08 am

Dear Gary (on the Big East and ACC)

Here's Monday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: I know you think I am crazy but I believe top to bottom the ACC is the dominant league in the country, and I refuse to capitalize big east to show my lack of respect.  Sure the big east consistently has more teams in the (NCAA tournament) and more teams ranked in the top 25, but it also has more teams.

-- Lawrence

You're correct.

I do think you're crazy.

Because not only is the Big East better than the ACC, this version of the Big East is so good that I'm calling it the toughest league in college basketball history until I see otherwise. I mean, why do you think Providence had such a hard time hiring a coach? Answer: It's because trying to consistently finish in the top half of the Big East is going to be extremely difficult for Providence given the quality and depth at the top, and Providence is a pretty nice program. Trust me, a coach would much rather play an ACC schedule than a Big East schedule if only because it's reasonable for everybody in the ACC to at least shoot for the middle. In other words, there isn't a program in the ACC that couldn't hope to finish in the top six of the ACC in any given year. On the other hand, it's practically  impossible for nearly half of the Big East  programs to ever hope to consistently finish in the top six of the Big East, and any of the top Big East teams are just one injury or issue from slipping to the middle because of the number of quality programs. Consider that I think Syracuse might be a top 15 team, but it would be hard for anybody to justify ranking the Orange in the top five of the Big East. That's all you need to know about the strength at the top. And though I agree that the Big East has more good teams and more bad teams based upon it having more teams in general, I still have nine of the 16 Big East teams making the NCAA tournament compared to six of the 12 ACC teams.

That means 56.3 percent of the Big East should make the NCAA tournament compared to 50.0 of ACC teams.

That means the Big East is better and tougher and just a nightmare to navigate.

Anyway, Lawrence, when I got your email I started thinking how a Big East-ACC Challenge might look. So what I decided to do is take the top six from each league and match them against each other. Here's what I got assuming all games were played on neutral courts:

1. Louisville vs. North Carolina

  • Winner: North Carolina

2. Connecticut vs. Duke

  • Winner: Connecticut

3. Notre Dame vs. Miami

  • Winner: Notre Dame

4. Pittsburgh vs. Wake Forest

  • Winner: Pittsburgh

5. Marquette vs. Virginia Tech

  • Winner: Marquette

6. Georgetown vs. Clemson

  • Winner: Georgetown

So when I matched the six projected NCAA tournament teams from the ACC against the top six projected NCAA tournament teams from the Big East I came to the conclusion that the Big East would win five of those games. Methinks that suggests the Big East is better, but I'm willing to listen if somebody else wants to make the ACC's case.

Category: NCAAB
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