Let’s get this out of the way immediately: of course the net gain for Big East basketball in realignment is a negative. You could replace Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia with pretty much anyone and it would be a loss for the conference.
From a recruiting perspective, though, it’s not all bad.
In the recruiting game, it’s often about relationships in a certain region. It’s why Marquette is able to recruit Texas effectively, and it’s why Arizona has done a decent job in New York lately. With the additions of UCF, SMU and Houston to the Big East, new avenues for the schools in the Northeast and along the Eastern seaboard could open up.
Back when the ACC and Big East changes were originally rumored in September, we spoke to several assistant coaches who seemed to welcome the changes.
“The climate changes from year to year as to where the best players are, but all we’re looking for is a chance to get our foot in the door,” one said.
Texas and Florida are hotbeds for recruiting, and now Big East schools could have a new pitch in those areas. They could now tell prospective recruits that they can play in the Big East and still have a chance to play in front of family and friends at least once a year.
On the other side, this is clearly a plus for Houston, SMU and UCF in recruiting. All three schools have been doing a good job on the trail over the past couple of years, but this could take it to a new level. Now the pitch is, you can stay at home and still play in a major conference. Most elite prospects don’t want to play in Conference-USA (aside from Memphis), but that won’t be a hindrance anymore.
For UCF, this is going to make or break the basketball program. For the past several years, the Knights have been looked at as a sleeping giant on the hardwood. Great facilities, beautiful weather and a great campus. They’re constantly judged on potential; UCF could be a huge factor nationally. Now, Donnie Jones has to expedite the process of pushing the Knights to national prominence. They can’t go into the Big East and just falter immediately. They have had decent success with transfers and in recruiting the past few years – they need to continue that.
With Houston, it’s going to be a matter of protecting its territory. James Dickey did a great job with the class of 2012, getting four-star prospects Danuel House and Chicken Knowles to stay home with Houston. Nearly every high-level prospect from the area is giving serious consideration to the Cougars, which is going to be a necessity in the Big East. Kids no longer have to choose between staying home and playing in a major conference; they can have both. For the rest of the schools, though, this could open up opportunities to poach kids out of Houston. Dickey can’t allow that.
SMU has done a great job recruiting the Northeast in 2012. Blaise Mbargorba is from New Jersey, while Brian Bernardi calls New York home. Both also received plenty of interest from Big East schools. Expect more battles between Matt Doherty and Big East schools in the near future. What he can’t do, though, is allow the NYC-area schools to return the favor and start taking kids out of the Dallas area.
The new moves will certainly alter the recruiting landscape in the Big East. Current conference schools now have new avenues of recruitment, while the new ones can now include the Big East as part of the pitch.
It’s tough to find a bright side for the Big East in realignment, but recruiting could be the one.