It’s a long shot, but the constantly besieged Big East has an opportunity to go 3-0 against the ACC on Saturday.
With North Carolina at No. 19 Louisville, Connecticut at Maryland and Virginia Tech at ACC member in waiting Pittsburgh, you can imagine how delighted new Big East commissioner Mike Aresco would be if his league could just escape with wins by Louisville and Connecticut.
Until Wednesday’s headline news that Notre Dame would leave the Big East, the ACC’s steady dose of raiding jabs had put its neighboring league on the ropes and on the verge of a technical knockout.
But with Notre Dame leaving for the ACC in all sports except football – but with a five-game annual guarantee on that front – the Big East future took a broadside hit. The move took any lingering hope that Notre Dame football might one day come aboard.
Aresco had little choice except to accept the Irish’s decision gracefully and attempt to maintain an upbeat mood.
“This is a resilient conference,” he told the Associated Press.
That’s true, too. The Big East has been remarkably durable considering its misfortune. When Louisville reached the Final Four earlier this year, Big East loyalists were quick to point out that Duke and UNC didn’t get there and that Connecticut was the national champ in 2011 when the two ACC heavies were eliminated earlier in the NCAA tourney.
Even with Pittsburgh and Syracuse soon to leave for the ACC, there’s no reason to predict Big East basketball will cease to be relevant.
But on the football front, the Big East will need to improve a lot and then get lucky to stay upright.
The pending arrivals of Boise State, Central Florida, Navy, Houston, Southern Methodist, Temple and San Diego State over the next three seasons will broaden the footprint from coast to coast, but there’s not an obvious regular top-25 contender in the group other than Boise State.
Logically, the Big East will have to place most of its football hope on South Florida and Louisville. But keep in mind that UNC defeated the Cardinals last season in Chapel Hill, and N.C. State stopped them in Charlotte’s Belk Bowl.
But as the ACC and Big East meet in the games Saturday, it’s seems like decades ago that Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College were on the other side of the divide and flourishing.