Five years ago, it would have never been a question. The Big East Conference was, hands down, the best conference in college basketball.
Now, years after the conference realignment, the Big East may be on the verge of being the king of college hoops once again.
Roughly only a month and a half away from the big day, Selection Sunday, the Big East has one of the best representations at the top of the Associated Press Poll despite lacking the depth of the Big 12 or ACC.
With Villanova and Xavier next to each other at No. 6 and No. 7, respectively, and Providence ranked No. 10, the conference has three teams in the nation’s top-10. Only the Big 12 can say the same.
So, is the Big East the best conference in college basketball? Not so fast.
While the conference has a strong presence in the top-10, no other team is actually ranked in the top-25. Only Butler is receiving votes.
With five total teams in the top-25, including the No. 1 team, Oklahoma, the Big 12 appears to be the best conference in the nation. However, the gap is not as large as it might have been thought to be.
When the Big East realigned and lost the likes of Syracuse, Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, many people, including myself, did not think it would truly ever be one of the “power conferences” again.
Now, as we begin to finish the third full season of this new Big East, the conference seems to only be getting stronger.
Last season, in its second full year, the conference seemed to shock everyone by earning six bids to the NCAA Tournament despite only having 10 teams.
With the likes of Villanova, Xavier and Providence already ranked within the top-10 and destined for an at-large bid, receiving six nods again does not seem to be out of the realm of possibility.
According to CBS Bracketologist Jerry Palm, the Big East is projected to receive five bids into the NCAA Tournament.
The five he pointed to are Villanova, Xavier, Providence and Seton Hall.
While getting six teams into the “Big Dance” will be a tough task for the conference, even with just five it will have 50 percent representation.
This year’s Big East might not be the same one from 2012 that saw 10 teams from receive bids and saw Louisville make the Final Four.
However, with Villanova ranked second in RPI, Xavier ranked fourth, Providence ranked 21st and four other teams in the top-90, the conference has solidified that it still remains one of the best in the nation.
That is not going to change anytime soon.
With Villanova remaining a perennial powerhouse, Providence having its best few years in the last decade, Butler continuing its winning ways, Seton Hall growing with its standout sophomore class and Chris Mullin rebuilding St. John’s, the future of the conference is bright.
While different than the conference we all grew up loving on Monday nights, this one can still hang with the country’s best.
Matthew Rachek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.