Rise and Fall: Big East Program Review

July 8th, 2008


Like civilizations, all great basketball programs eventually fall.. replaced by an upstart newcomer. In this week's Rise & Fall series, we'll take a look at which BCS programs are rising, falling, or merely treading water. Up today, the:




*Note that the Big East is ridiculously big so commentary for each team will be a bit shorter than other leagues..



This is a but misleading.. because Cincy was a surprise team last year, and could be even better in 08-09. But still, just a handful of years ago, this was a premier program. The reality is, take away Bob Huggins, and why would a stud prospect (outside of a local kid like Yancy Gates) choose UofC as compared to another Big East school?



Similar to Duke in the ACC, UCONN is still chugging along.. but there are definitely signs of slippage. Recent big time recruits either bolted for the pros, haven't panned out, or got into extracurricular troubles. While the Huskies should be a Final Four contender in Detroit, I get the sense that Coach Calhoun's biggest glory days are in the past.



At multiple points in the past decade, it looked like DePaul basketball would get back on the map in a big way, but it just hasn't happened. While there's some hope here, Mac Koshwal has All-Big East potential, sub .500 records are likely the next two seasons.


The Hoyas RPI has risen each of the last 5 years from 142nd in '04 to 7th last year. While a slight step back is expected, the future is still extremely bright. JT3 now has the ability to bring in big time talent, and he's already proven that his system wins games.



This was a tough one.. because unlike UCONN above, the Cards still have positive momentum and could reach new heights in coming seasons. What's worrisome is how so many big-name, top-level prospects have fizzled out since committing. For every success, there's been an NBA exit, academic issues, transfers, unhappiness, etc. While this year's group looks like a Final Four contender, not once in the past decade have the Cardinals finished with a Top 10 team (RPI-wise).



Luke Harangody has been a huge find for Mike Brey (who got a 2-year contract extension this morning). His emergence, along with steady improvement in recent seasons has created a good buzz around the Irish, leading quality players like Scott Martin and Ben Hansbrough to join the program. This could be ND's first Top Ten team in years.



There's a real mix of positive and negative vibes going on in Marquette. On the negative end, the loss of Tom Cream seems like a big downer as does the weak '07 and '08 recruiting hauls. On the positive side though, the team has improved each of the last few years, should be quite good again this year, and there's big names attached to the program in '09.



The Panthers great success over the past decade is still unknown to most of the general public. What I'd worry about as a Panther fan though is next season after Fields and Young graduate, and Blair possibly moves on to the pros.



The last two seasons have been pretty hideous, and though you have to figure things will improve this season, beyond that is a huge question mark. The program hasn't added a decent recruit since Dwain Williams in '05 and there's nothing exciting on the horizon this season (Bilal Dixon isn't that good) or next.



Call this the nowhere to go but up category. No one's certain Fred Hill can coach, but with talent like Corey Chandler, Mike Rosario, and Greg Echenique joining the program, things should eventually improve.



Call it the Perfect Storm, but its been one long string of horrendous seasons in NYC. They haven't been above 130th in the RPI for quite some time, and though that plateau might be met this year, I wouldn't expect much more than that.


The problem for the Pirates is that though they're going in a decent direction, the upper half of the league is moving just as quickly. With Harvey, Hazell, and now Jordan Theodore in the mix, the backcourt is set for the next few seasons.. but you can't win without a decent player above 6-5 on the roster.



Similar to Rutgers, the Bulls can only go up. From an RPI low of 236th a couple years back, things have slowly improved, and Dominique Jones was a great catch. But unlike the Knights, USF still has a ways to go to compete for 4 & 5-star prospects.



This is somewhat misleading, because the Orange are one of my national sleepers this season, and could also be very good next season as well. But just in terms of the overall direction of the program, things aren't coming quite as easily as they used to. The Big East has gotten better and deeper and Top 25 teams are no longer a given for Coach Boeheim.


Jay Wright's obviously done a great job with the program and helped it get back into Top 25 contention. But I don't see the program breaking out into the stratosphere anytime soon. Thus they remain in the status quo.


I'll simply call this the Bob Huggins effect. When he joins your program, things tend to move in the right direction.. just ask Joe Alexander and his newly inked NBA contract.


- up next is the Big 12 -