The downgrade of the Big East

A new report from ESPN's Brett McMurphy and Andy Katz states that the Big East's seven Catholic non-football schools are taking their (basket)ball with them and going home - in a few days we might learn whether or not those schools will hang with the Big East or if they'll start their own conference with basketball as the primary sport.

The teams leaving would be: Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, Seton Hall, Providence, St. John's and DePaul.

This leaves one to wonder what the Big East will look like in basketball without them. This is a difficult question to answer even with Wikipedia because it seems that the Big East's membership changes on a weekly basis. If I omit a school below, you can understand why.

Future Big East Basketball

South Florida
Southern Methodist
Central Florida

That doesn't exactly strike me as a basketball conference bedecked with women's basketball glory outside of the Connecticut state line. The basketball schools leaving the Big East will be a big loss, and the biggest loser is going to be Connecticut women's basketball. Just about any school that had the potential to give UConn a tussle - Notre Dame, Louisville, the seven Catholic schools - is either out the door or about to leave, and aside from Connecticut what's left over is the very definition of a mid-major conference. (Adding Boise State, San Diego State or East Carolina in women's BB is not really a help - and this is assuming that Cincinnati doesn't end up in the Big Twelve or somewhere else.)

There are multiple aspects to having a great program, other than just coaching. There is also recruiting. In previous years, Geno Auriemma could tell a recruit that not only would she be going to the best women's basketball program, they'd be playing the best women's basketball teams in the country both in and out of conference.'s just the best teams out of conference. Blue-chip recruits aren't going to be banging on the doors to play the Tulanes and SMUs of this world. What are the chances that Connecticut-Memphis is going to be broadcast at prime time on ESPN as a marquee women's basketball matchup?

And don't bet that other coaches won't be mentioning this to recruits if those schools hit the road. "What great match-up does the Big East really have ?" The Big Twelve, even the expanded Big Twelve, is full of them. Even without Maryland there are still the rivalries between the North Carolina schools. Ohio State vs. Michigan always means something, so does Stanford vs. California. The SEC is full of strong teams. Which of those teams in the above list could be a successful rival to UConn? Which one of them could even remotely threaten to give Connecticut something above a really good warm-up?

I am sure that Connecticut fans are watching all of this with a great amount of unease.

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