Big East alive and well…for now

With the news becoming official that West Virginia will in fact be leaving for the Big 12, it’s an appropriate time to remember to savor this last season of the Big East. Here is Marquette Tribune columnist Erik Schmidt with his take on the situation (from Thursday’s print edition).

Right now, the Big East is in such a state of apocalyptic chaos that the only thing we haven’t seen yet is players transforming into brain-eating zombies.

The last few weeks have been pure anarchy, with the future of the conference looking desolate at best. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are going to the ACC. West Virginia and Louisville might be going to the Big 12. What gives? When did the Big East turn into the funny smelling kid at school who eats glue and shoves crayons up his nose?

And when did every other place turn into the pretty girl?

It’s been a confounding and painful development to see one of the most prolific conferences in the nation reduced to rubble, to see Goliath’s legs being chopped off one at a time.

But then the Coaches Poll came out, and at least for a day things returned to normal. Despite all of the turmoil and backstabbing and money grubbing, the Big East is still the Big East.

The conference has six teams in the top 25, which is the most in the country. Count ‘em up: Connecticut, Syracuse, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Marquette and Cincinnati.  That’s called dominance. That’s called we’re better than you.

Of course, this is nothing new. The Big East has owned college basketball like a cold-hearted landlord for the last five years, culminating in a record-setting effort last season that saw a staggering 11 teams reach the NCAA Tournament and Connecticut being crowned the eventual champs.

Other conferences, even vaunted ones like the ACC and Big Ten, simply can’t keep up with the Big East men. And don’t even get me started on the women’s side, where the lady Huskies are so thorough in their dominance, the powers that be should have the championship trophy gift-wrapped and sent to Storrs every year.

The thing is, with the way teams have been clamoring to leave you would never know the Big East is any better than the Mountain West. Seriously, passengers on the Titanic didn’t jump ship as fast some of these teams. Plagues have gotten more respect.

Obviously, the real culprit here is football. It’s more popular, more marketable and brings in the cheddar in ways that basketball can’t comprehend. That’s why teams like Syracuse and Pittsburgh fled to greener pastures.

That’s why the Big East is a dead man walking.

The only option we have is to enjoy Big East basketball while we still can, because before we know it, Marquette’s schedule might be eerily similar to the days of Conference USA. The days of playing three or four ranked teams at home are numbered.

But not this year. For at least one more season, the Big East is king and we get to see our Golden Eagles face off against the nation’s very best.

We get to see redshirt junior center Chris Otule guard the behemoth known as Andre Drummond of Connecticut. We get to see senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom out duel Pittsburgh’s senior guard Ashton Gibbs. We get to see Marquette play the best of the best, one last time.

So enjoy it fanatics, for it’s going to be short-lived.  The future of Big East athletics might be bleak, but one thing’s for sure, the present is still alive and kicking.

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