Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

A Look at Big East Basketball, Then and Now

Posted on February 19, 2011 by Ray Thompson

A young Lou Carnesecca coaching Chris Mullin at St. Johns.

In 1985, The Big East conference dominated the national rankings and the NCAA tournament, sending 3 teams to the final four (Georgetown, Villanova, and St. Johns) with two of those teams vying for the national championship.

Georgetown and Villanova played one of the greatest finals games in history and to this day this game is considered one of the biggest upsets in college basketball. A game in which a heavily favored Georgetown team, coached by John Thompson, and lead by a dominant Patrick Ewing lost to underdog Villanova, a team coached by Rollie Massimino and featured Ed Pinckney winning the MVP as Villanova won the tournament in stunning fashion by a margin of two points.

The Big East was special that year for the amazing amount of talent that was in the conference combined with a crop of energetic coaches, in the prime or in the early years of their respective careers, matching wits in what was at the time the best college basketball conference.

Three time Big East player of the year Chris Mullin played on that St. John’s team coached by Lou Carnesecca (remember those sweaters), A young Gary Williams was coaching a solid BC team featuring Michael Adams in the backcourt, and Syracuse had a great team that year featuring Dwayne “Pearl” Washington and Rony Seikaly coached by one of the greatest basketball coaches in history, Jim Boeheim. These players are now legends, many of whom went on to NBA careers. It was their journey through the Big East conference, the elite conference in the nation in 1984 – 1985, that helped make them the great players they would become.

Kemba Walker of UConn is a legitimate player of the year candidate.

Flash forward to 2011 and the current Big East conference which is now dominating once again. A quick look through the top 25, and you notice Pittsburgh ranked #6, Notre Dame ranked #8, Georgetown ranked #9, UConn ranked 13th, Louisville ranked 16th, Syracuse (who was off to a blistering start but who has since settled down) is ranked 17th with teams like West Virginia and St. Johns rounding out the voting for the top 30. That is 6 Big East teams in the top 20 with 8 teams represented in the top 30 in the country.

Yes, it is like 1985 again when the Big East was not just considered the beast of the east but considered the best in the nation. No other conference is as well represented as the Big East in the current national polls.

A look through the early brackets has the Big East sending those 8 teams to the NCAA tournament with the very real possibility of an all Big East final four. You could see Pittsburgh winning out the southeast bracket, UConn representing the East, Louisville winning the West, and Notre Dame or even St Johns coming out of the southwest.

Before these teams make it to the NCAAs, they will play in the Big East conference championship which figures to be the most competitive and entertaining in the country. Players like Ashton Gibbs, Ben Hansbrough, and Kemba Walker, a legitimate player of the year candidate, will become legends like those who came before them. So don’t be surprised if the final four is an all Big East final four, because this conference is putting an all out assault on the top 25. This figures to be one of the best conference and NCAA tournaments in recent memory for the Big East, a conference that has consistently produced a quality and once again quantity of talent that is unmatched. Sit back and enjoy the renaissance and resurgence of the Big East conference.

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