Big East basketball high on experience

The college basketball season is just two weeks away from officially starting, and with practices already under way, the coaches of teams in the Big East are looking at experience to lead their team.

The experience of the players in the conference was brought up on numerous occasions at Big East Media Day on Oct. 20 at Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y.

The importance of having players with experience showed in the preseason coaches’ poll with three of the top four teams bringing back more than half their starters from the previous year.

“Fact that we have 10 seniors from the standpoint of experience is huge,” St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin said.

St. John’s, a team that has drawn comparisons with the Pirates, because of the number of returning players and the addition of a new head coach might seem to be equal but in the preseason poll the teams are five spots apart. With St. John’s being ranked sixth and the Pirates being ranked 11th.

“They have eight seniors, and I think when the rankings came out we had two guys who weren’t coming back,” Pirates head coach Kevin Willard said. “It looked like our roster might have been a little different then it really ended up being.”

Not only does the experience in college basketball make a difference but especially in league play with the Big East being the largest conference and arguably the toughest.

“This is a conference with a lot more teams than the Big 12,” Cincinnati senior forward Ibrahima Thomas said, who transferred from Oklahoma State. “You face great players every night, some great teams, and coaches.”

Veteran leadership is valued across the league, especially seniors, but that is not every coaches dream.

“Everybody was so consumed with the future, they forgot about the present,” Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said about his seniors last year. “The best athlete to have is in their junior year because they didn’t go pro early and their senior year is not around the corner and they think about the present tense.”

The feeling at Big East Media Day for women’s basketball, held on Oct. 21 at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York, N.Y., was more of the same, with player experience being a key factor for the upcoming season along with praising the league for being the top women’s basketball conference in the country.

Commissioner John M. Marinatto started off the event stating that teams in the Big East Conference have been among the most successful in the country with the conference receiving 70 bids into the NCAA Tournament, 12 Final Four appearances, and seven National Titles since 2000, leading all other conferences.

The Big East was also tied for best conference win percentage in the NCAA Tournament, .672, since 2000.

DePaul head coach Doug Bruno spoke after Marinatto adding to the praises of the conference saying that the addition of Anne Donovan as the Hall’s new coach makes four Hall of Fame coaches in the league.

Bruno also mentioned that 13 of the conferences 16 teams advanced to some type of postseason Tournament. He added that the United States World Championship women’s basketball was made up of seven players who played in the Big East and also included the only current college athlete in preseason player of the year in Maya Moore from Connecticut.

“There is pride in having seven teams make the tournament last season,” Moore said. “Big East teams play every style of basketball making us ready when it matters.”

With playing in a conference that not only is competitive but also very diverse in play style, players who have been through it before become an asset.

“It is difficult to lose senior leadership,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. “[Seniors] provide end of the game calm, and young players are upbeat and exuberant.”

The quality of the league and of players in the league makes for games where every little aspect of the game is important.

“You can’t be good without experience,” Bruno said. “But experience doesn’t guarantee wins.”

Stephen Valenti can be reached at

Author: Staff Writer

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