By: Paul Fritschner ~Staff Writer~
The worn out saying, “This isn’t your father’s Big East,” is substantially losing traction as the reformed conference continues to take shape. It is an easy cop-out for many to simply crown the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) the best in the land without considering many of the other stellar conferences. Some even choose to slot the Big 12 ahead of the Big East.
Not only is the Big East light years ahead of the Big 12, it’s significantly vying for the title of best conference in the country.
Let’s start with the general assumption that the ACC is the best conference and work from there. While North Carolina did play in the national title game last year, close only counts in horseshoes; the Big East contains the defending national champion Villanova.
Currently, the Big East is on top in conference RPI, which outlines the toughest strength of schedule as a whole and the highest average strength of schedule per team.
From the current Big East’s inception in 2013 through the 2015-2016 season, the Big East had a better RPI (.5648) than the ACC (.5640), the PAC 12 (.5636), the BIG 10 (.5628) and the SEC (.5503).
Many new sabermetricians scoff at the use of the RPI and deem it a flawed and outdated statistic. It is one of the most highly valued statistics by the tournament selection committee, though, so it’s definitely of use in this context.
One may look at the Top 25 rankings and become distracted by the big names of Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas. However, sandwiched in between Kentucky and North Carolina at the very top is Villanova, ranked second.
The ACC has three teams ranked in the top 10, but guess what? So does the Big East. Creighton entered the top tier this week at No. 10, and with Xavier at seven, this current Big East isn’t looking so bad after all.
The ACC does have five teams ranked, but the Big East is right on its heels with four. Last year, the ACC sent seven teams to the tournament and the Big East five. But both figures are 50 percent of each conference’s total number of teams, effectively evening their efficiency. For the record, the Big 12 sent the highest percentage, with seven of its 10 teams dancing.
Yes, the old Big East conference, with the likes of Patrick Ewing in the glory days and Kemba Walker step-backs in the modern days, was a sight to behold. It was the rough and tough, ground and pound style of basketball that many loved to watch.
This conference shares the name but is establishing a new identity. Teams are just now beginning to realize the recruiting potential the conference brings. Even here at Xavier, Trevon Bluiett has remarked that he most likely would not have donned a Musketeer uniform had the school not joined the Big East.
It has endured some growing pains and intense scrutiny in the public eye, but it is here to stay. The building process has come to fruition, and teams such as Xavier and Creighton are realizing the benefits of living in a major conference. It’s time to start referring to this powerhouse conference as the new version of something old and realize that it has planted itself in the uppermost echelon of the NCAA.