Putting the new Big East in perspective

With the official announcement of the new Big East reportedly coming today, the question that will most be asked is: how good will it actually be?

I went into this a bit last week as a response to a columnist falsely claiming the gap between the new Big East and the leftovers it was leaving behind wasn’t that great, but now it’s time to take a look at the big picture. The Big East’s storied tradition isn’t to settle for best of the rest, but to compete at the highest levels. Will this league be able to do that?

Pretty simply, yes.

In order to compare the relative strength of the conference, I once again decided to use the KenPom ratings to measure the average strength of the top conference, as determined by average team rating. This is not an airtight scientific calculation, but it does provide a decent look at how good a conference was not just at the penthouse, but from top to bottom. This analysis could be undertaken with Sagarin numbers just as easily, but I tend to like KenPom for ease of sorting.

(For the purposes of this exercise, I included Butler, Xavier and Creighton in the conference and didn’t calculate the average rating of the old Big East as it will no longer be around in the future.)

We begin with the 2013 rankings as of noon CT on March 7.

2013 Ken Pom RankingsThe shorter the bar the better the ranking. As you can see above, the new Big East just barely edges out the Mountain West Conference for second place behind the Big Ten. It also bests the Big 12 by 25 spots and the Pac 12 by almost 30. The conference would be in line to nab at least five at large-bids.

Next up is 2012.

2012 kenpom ratingI removed the Mountain West from the rest of the analysis as it had a completely different makeup and wasn’t nearly as competitive. The results again show the new Big East with a slim lead for second place, this time over the SEC.

What about 2011?

2011 ken pomDespite the fact that it had a better average ranking than in 2012, the Big East drops to third in 2011 with a strong year for some middle-of the pack ACC teams.

Let’s look at one more year.

2010 KenpomThat’s more like it. The Big East reclaims its No. 2 spot, with the ACC overtaking the Big Ten for the first time as a down year for the Big 10 drops them to fourth.

Here are the final results of our operation:

Picture 7

A look at where each conference finished in our KenPom analysis the past four years.

The consistency shown by the Big East is going to be its bread and butter. It won’t be getting over 60 percent of its teams in like it once did, but you can guarantee it will be one of the most competitive in the country.

Many times the media locks its attention on the top, without taking a look at what’s underneath that. Even though Kentucky won the title last year and Florida made the Elite 8, the new Big East was a tad bit better from top to bottom. In fact, the Big East was better then three “Power 5” conferences every year (SEC, Pac 12, Big 12).

With Providence and St. John’s trending in the right direction, the numbers are bound to get even more favorable.

There is no denying this new conference won’t be what it was before, but that wasn’t a consequence of the C7 breaking it off. That was a football decision made by Syracuse and Louisville. There is no use lamenting what once was, but rather building up what can be.

And for those national pundits trying to sell you on the Metro 9, they haven’t finished ranked higher than sixth once in the past four years of this analysis. What a joke.

The Big East won’t be the top conference most years , but you can bet it will be in the conversation.

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