Big East ’11-12 Schedule Breakdown
First impressions: Fair or not?
by Jon Jaques / @JJaques25
Believe it or not, there are just 107 days until the college basketball season officially begins. Just a heads up: These next three months or so will crawl. There’s a chance (though unlikely, in my opinion … there’s too much dinero at stake in both situations) that we won’t see any NBA or NFL action between now and the commencement of another college hoops season.
But that gives us NCAA nuts all the more reason to dig deep (I mean really deep) for reasons to get prematurely excited about a season that should be one of the more electrifying in recent history. The lockout scared college studs into staying in school an extra year… bad for NBA players, stupendous for college hoops.
So here is today’s little appetizer to whet your college hoops pallet. The Big East, last year’s monster conference and producer of the NCAA Champion UConn Huskies, is announcing its full conference schedule on Thursday afternoon.
But thanks to the work of ESPN’s Andy Katz, we know a lot about the schedule’s breakdown already (click here for a full list of the ’11-12 repeat opponents for each Big East school).
It’s hard to predict right now whose schedules are the most/least fair because of a number of Big East schools are hard to read going into this season. Teams like Villanova, St. John’s, West Virginia, Notre Dame and Georgetown are all coming off of solid seasons, but lost so much that it’s difficult to forecast which of these teams will be a bigger test for the conference contenders (for purposes of this blog, “contender” status is “earned” by a presumed ranking in the meaningless pre-season top 25 polls: so Syracuse, Connecticut, Louisville, Pitt, Marquette, Cincinnati are your contenders).
At first glance, it looks like the toughest schedules belong to Syracuse (plays Connecticut and Louisville twice) and Louisville (plays Pitt and Syracuse twice). The two hardest schedules on paper belong to two of the best teams on paper… the system works!
Hold your horses. Even though it lost Kemba Walker and 150 percent of its offense from last season, the Connecticut Huskies would figure to be challenged in conference. After all, Jim Calhoun is coaching a defending national champion and Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier and Alex Oriakhi are back for more. But UConn has only one double opponent (Syracuse) that figures to make major noise in conference, one that is a tossup (Notre Dame), and one that most see as a bottom feeder (Seton Hall). Fair?
Also, Marquette and Cincinnati both play two of those previously mentioned mystery teams (in addition to each other, of course) twice, so those seemingly favorable slates could just as easily turn into doozies.
This tier system of favorites playing the toughest schedules and vice versa will probably backfire. Louisville and Notre Dame’s remarkable ‘10-11 seasons should teach us that pretty much any team has potential for a breakout season (Rutgers, anyone?).
They’re not beyond reproach, but take it easy on Big East officials. This conference scheduling business is a mountain of a challenge, especially in a league as enormous, unbalanced and unpredictable as the Big East is.
Jon Jaques is a former starter for the Cornell Big Red and former forward for Israel’s Ironi Ashkelon club.