When the monster known as the Big East broke apart into virtually two conferences, many wondered if the depth and quality of teams would remain. The “Catholic 7” decided to secede, and they brought in like-minded schools in Xavier, Creighton, and Butler to round out a 10 team league.
Of the 7 seceding teams, it looks like only 2, Villanova and possibly Providence, will be dancing come March. This is a harsh departure from the 2011 NCAA tournament which sent an unprecedented 11 teams to the tournament. Is this just a down year for the new Big East, or is this going to be a perennial 4 bid league? On the surface, teams like Georgetown, Butler, and Marquette have been tournament fixtures that have been poor this season. St. John’s is also still fighting to be considered a top echelon team.
But you can say the same in reverse. In a good year for other teams, do Providence and Xavier make it? What happens to Creighton once Doug McDermott leaves? This is more likely to be a 4 bid league for many years than a 6 bid league.
The American may be in even worse shape. Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis and UCONN will be in the tournament. SMU is a bubble team. The other 5 teams have no chance. To make matters worse, Louisville is bolting for the ACC after this season. Being added? East Carolina, Tulane, Tulsa and Navy. Basically, this is the old Conference USA before the good teams left Conference USA with the only exception being UCONN. Again, this looks like a 4 bid league at most for the foreseeable future.
Make no mistake about it, the Big East 11 bid league is a thing of the past. Perennial tournament teams Syracuse, Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame are all outside of these two conferences. When you strip those teams away and break the remainder into two leagues, you are no longer a power conference. At this point, the AAC and Big East are just about on par with the Atlantic 10, which is widely viewed not as a power conference.
The Atlantic 10 routinely puts about 4 teams in the tournament, and this year is no different. UMASS, Saint Louis, George Washington and VCU should all be in. Richmond is currently a bubble team, and even Dayton, St. Joe’s and St. Bonaventure could get in. The Mountain West also places a similar number of teams in the tournament on a regular basis, despite 2014 being a down year.
The AAC and Big East can no longer be considered among the elite power conferences.