Busting Brackets

Big East Basketball: Assessing the league in midst of conference realignment

Marquette v Connecticut
Marquette v Connecticut / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

Over the past few years, conference realignment has caused seismic shifts to the college landscape, and nearly every conference has seen some sort of addition/subtraction to their respective member schools. However, the Big East has continued to stand firm in the midst of realignment, and have not added nor lost any schools. But in an era that looks to be geared towards super conferences, will this strategy remain sustainable for the Big East?

The Big East Conferences currently has a fantastic layout for basketball, from both an on-court product and scheduling perspective. The 11 team size allows for a 20-game conference schedule that will see each team play one another twice, something no other power conference is able to match. Additionally, the conference contains many programs that are steeped with history, past and present, most notably UConn, who just won their second straight NCAA championship in dominant fashion. And outside of those schools with plenty of history, a majority of the Big East's other members are solid programs who are capable of making the NCAA tournament in any given year. It allows for an extremely deep conference where nearly every game is a tough test, no matter who you are, while also allowing for plenty of entertaining games.

But even with all of those positives, the current trend in the college athletics landscape is continuing to move more and more towards the super conferences, such as the Big Ten, SEC, ACC (for now), and the Big 12. And it's unlikely that the Big East will single handedly be able to buck that trend, even with their impressive group of member schools. It may require the Big East to grow and add several new members in order to keep them near or at the top of college basketball.

However, a majority of the recent conference re-alignment continues to be centered around football, with basketball generally being an afterthought. On top of this, there are more than twice as many conferences in college basketball compared to the College Football Bowl Subdivision. And with this, the stranglehold of the super conferences will likely not be as strong in basketball as it is in football, leaving the door open for the Big East standing pat in their current position.

But even if the 11-team Big East would survive and thrive in the new conference landscape, there are still several other situations across other conferences that the Big East is/will almost certainly be monitoring, and may not be afraid to make a move. Several teams, most notably Clemson and Florida State are looking to bolt from the ACC, and if they were to leave, it is very likely several other schools, such as North Carolina, Virginia, Miami, and several more would likely do the same.

However, there will still be several holdovers that will remain in the ACC, and a few of them, including Duke, along with former Big East schools in Syracuse and Pitt. All four of these schools would make geographical sense and would not result in the increased travel time that several other conferences will be experiencing. Outside of the ACC, Gonzaga is another school that has been connected to the Big East for years, and in many ways, it perfectly fits the mold of a typical Big East school, however, its location remains a roadblock and likely will down the road. If the Big East were to choose a different path for expansion, they would likely turn to conferences such as the A-10 and target teams such as Dayton, St. Louis, and VCU.

Ultimately, the two routes of expanding or standing firm each come with their own pros and cons. The past few seasons have been a similar story as the one prior, with two to three elite teams at the conference, a cluster of solid teams who will likely be on the tournament bubble, and Georgetown and DePaul bringing up the rear by a wide margin. But things might be a bit different in the 2024-25 season. DePaul has brought in a new face at head coach in Chris Holtmann and has made several solid additions in the transfer portal and it is beginning to look like a renaissance for the Blue Demons is imminent.

Additionally, Georgetown has made several significant additions and may also be poised to take a step forward. On the other end of the spectrum, there's UConn, who has also made some of their own huge transfer additions and could very well three-peat come next March. All this being said, the basement of the Big East, which has been historically weak over the past few years, will likely be way stronger and will make every game in the conference a tough matchup with no easy games.

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All of this considered, it is essential for the Big East needs to continually monitor the re-alignment situation, and if the opportunity presents itself to add a school such as Duke, it's something the conference can't pass up on doing. But as things stand, that remains a hypothetical, and for now, best move for the Big East is to hold steady at 11 teams for the time being.