Big East, big picture

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At one point, the Big East was one of the premier leagues in college basketball for both men and women — it still will be, at least until July 7, 2013.

West Virginia already paid around $20 million to leave the Big East immediately this summer; Syracuse and Pittsburgh will leave next year as well as Notre Dame leaving in 2014. Since these teams are regular attendees of the NCAA National Tournement for both men’s and women’s basketball, one can imagine the amount of money the Big East will lose in the long run. In fact, Syracuse and Pittsburgh were among the most profitable teams in the NCAA in terms of basketball according to Forbes, with Syracuse’s men’s team netting $11.5 million in profits and Pittsburgh’s netting $6.4 in profits.

To make up for these teams leaving, the Big East is adding five teams to the conference in all sports in 2014. Houston, Southern Methodist University, University of Central Florida and Memphis will fill those empty spots after leaving Conference USA, while Temple will leave the Atlantic 10 to join. They all hope that the Big East will get a big TV contract which is under negotiations right now.

While the effect is apparent for the Big East as a conference, what does this mean for DePaul’s basketball program? With so many key teams leaving, is this DePaul’s chance to shine?

DePaul men’s basketball record against the teams leaving, excluding Notre Dame, is 2-18 since joining the Big East in 2005. Against their main rivals in South Bend, they are 3-10. The two teams that were in the conference with DePaul before they left were Memphis and Houston, and they are 4-2 in the last 12 years against both of those teams. Add that with the one win over Temple and DePaul is 5-2 against the new coming teams.

For the women, the numbers tell a different story. They are 15-9 against those teams leaving since they have been in the Big East excluding Notre Dame, who they are 6-10 against in the past 12 years. Most of the games have been with either team being ranked, particularly Notre Dame and West Virginia. In the last three years of being in Conference USA, DePaul’s women’s team was 4-4 against Memphis and Houston.

However, for the women, they receive a very respectable Temple team who has had 20-win seasons since 2005. The Temple men’s team is also well-accomplished — they are regular NCAA tournament-goers, sixth in NCAA all-time wins and have a conference-leading 13 Atlantic-10 titles. Whether this success can be translated into a very aggressive conference like the Big East will have to wait until 2014, but they will still be a challenge for teams like DePaul.

Also, a new challenge will be the ever-overlooked problem of travel. As of right now, the total distance DePaul would have to travel to get to every school in their conference is 8,877 miles. During 2014, the amount of travel DePaul would have to do jumps up to 1991.9 miles. This increase in distance the team has to travel could wear on the team, having to go to New York, then to Chicago, then Texas is a tall order to ask a college basketball team.

With the Blue Demons’ last season facing the Orange and Pitt, we can still look forward to DePaul possibly filling that void around the top of the conference. We really don’t know what could happen after the top clears out a bit and new teams try to rise to the occasion. DePaul already locked down Billy Garrett Jr., the 46th best player in the nation according to ESPN’s Super 60 — who knows who else could be reeled in for the near future. Women’s basketball is starting off this season 25th in the nation and it remains to be seen what other accomplishments they can achieve in the Bruno Dynasty.  DePaul has been given an opportunity to thrive, but only if they think so. The mean kids are leaving the sandbox, and now is DePaul’s chance to rule.