The Big East is one of the most storied and reputable conferences in NCAA basketball history. From the days of Patrick Ewing at Georgetown and Chris Mullin at St. John’s to Kemba Walker at UConn, the conference has always been in the top tier. Even during the historic conference shakeup of the early 2010s, the Big East reloaded and added schools like Creighton and Xavier. Even though it’s still respected, the Big East is lacking the “East” that you might imagine from its name. Five of the 11 schools are west of Columbus, Ohio and three of those five are in the central time zone. Not totally as east as it was when the conference was composed of Boston College, UConn, Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Syracuse and Villanova. Today, I take on the challenge of recreating the Big East in a way that makes more sense geographically with some new teams, some old.
Note 1: The divisions are there for scheduling purposes. With 12 total teams, a full double round robin isn’t totally possible. There will be a double round robin within the division, every team will play four out of six teams from the other division once, and the other two once. This creates an even 20 game schedule.
Note 2: This is an IDEAL list. It is NOT meant to be realistic. Many of these schools wouldn’t leave their conferences, but this is meant to be a fun activity with just men’s and women’s basketball in mind.
Big East North Division: UConn, Villanova, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Syracuse
Big East South Division: Georgetown, North Carolina, Duke, NC State, South Carolina, Virginia
UConn – The Huskies are about as easy of a choice as they come. Not only is UConn a charter Big East member, they’re also on the east coast of the U.S. This realignment is for basketball purposes only and the 15 combined men’s and women’s championships certainly check that box. No doubt about UConn.
Villanova – Perhaps the second clear option is Villanova. Although it’s not quite a charter conference member, the Wildcats joining a year late won’t hurt them. The men’s program has a nice collection of championships, with two in the past 10 years and one from the 80s. The women’s program is also on the rise.
Providence – One of UConn’s most bitter rivals, Providence has a nice history in the Big East and in the college basketball landscape. Along with being on the east coast, it brings a pair of Final Fours to the table. Although many knock the Friars on their lack of success recently, they proved people wrong this year and made the Sweet 16.
St. John’s – The Johnnies have lacked recent success with only one Final Four in the past 60 years, but they still play an important role in the history of the conference. The Red Storm also hasn’t been horrible either. It has remained consistently in the middle of the pack the past few years and have promise for the next few as well.
Seton Hall – Another school that doesn’t have a ton of recent March Madness success, the Pirates still make sense here because of their excellent location and what they mean to the conference in a broader scope. Their last Sweet 16 was in 2000, but new coach Shaheen Holloway just made an Elite Eight and has a chance to bring that experience to Hall.
Syracuse – A lot of people won’t like this or are bitter towards Syracuse and how it ditched the Big East for the ACC, but it remains a good fit. The Orangemen covers upstate NY and are one of three schools in the division with a championship. All bias aside, there’s no reason to leave Syracuse aside, especially since it still has Jim Boeheim who’s been the Syracuse coach since before the Big East started.
Georgetown – Someone from the old Big East had to be in the South Division, and since the Hoyas are in DC, they got the call. They also lose priority to be in the more original division because of how bad they’ve generally been recently in hoops. Georgetown just finished its Big East season 0-19 despite having a five-star player on its roster and its WBB program hasn’t been special either.
North Carolina – This is where we start getting a bit creative. Would UNC leave the ACC in a normal world? Absolutely not! But here, it’s a perfect fit as an east coast school. The Tar Heels bring a terrific men’s basketball pedigree with six championships won in five different decades and a women’s program on the rise.
Duke – You can’t have UNC without Duke, and the Blue Devils make as much sense as the Tar Heels. Positioned similarly geographically, they bring the same benefit in that department and add on five national championships. Although Coach K is gone, their recruiting has been unfazed, with a continual stream of five stars. You also can’t forget their women’s success in past years.
NC State – NC State is mostly here because of its recent women’s success to rival UConn, but it’s important to remember that it also brings a pair of men’s championships from the 70s and 80s. The fast-developing WBB rivalry with UConn would be a great addition to the conference though, especially with our next program…
South Carolina – The Gamecocks have been just terrific in women’s basketball the past few years, winning the championship twice in their past five tries. They aren’t anywhere near surpassing UConn yet, but the opportunity to play the Huskies 1-2 times per year is too much to pass up, especially with them being on the east coast.
Virginia – The Cavaliers haven’t had much of any success in women’s basketball recently, but their 2019 men’s championship really helps the cause. Their coastal location and proximity to the other schools in their division help too. Of the schools on this list, Virginia probably makes the least sense, but they are a good addition nonetheless.