Big East needs to find direction to get back on top

March 21, 2004|by MARK KELLER

It wasn't long ago that the Big East was the premier basketball conference in the nation.

The Big East is well represented in this year's NCAA Tournament, but it's just not the same as it was, is it?

Syracuse is the only team from "the old days" of the conference that has maintained a strong national presence.

Connecticut has come on strong in recent years and done well in the postseason.

Yes, Pittsburgh has a shot at winning the national title this season, but - and don't take this wrong - it's Pitt.

Will Pitt ever be looked at in the same way that Georgetown, St. John's and Villanova used to be viewed? As legitimate national powers, year in and year out?


And what of those former powers? Georgetown and St. John's are both in the market for a new coach, and not just any coach will do for these jobs.

Georgetown has not been the same since John Thompson left - and they weren't really the same before Thompson left.

Part of that can be attributed to Maryland's success. At one time, Georgetown was the king of Washington-area basketball. The Terrapins have taken over that title under Gary Williams.

Remember the condition the Maryland program was in before Williams arrived? That's where St. John's finds itself right now, a once-proud team that fell on hard times - and fast.

With the reconfiguration of the Big East coming next year, Georgetown and St. John's are in a difficult spot. Each school needs to find the right coach for the position or immediately fall further behind the new schools coming in.

They should leave no stone unturned in their search. Otherwise, this time next year, they'll be looking for a rock to crawl under.

n n n

Hard to believe, since we had snow on the ground just three days ago, but spring is here.

More importantly, the spring sports season is here.

There's nothing like going to watch a high school baseball game in March. When else do you get the feeling that you're experiencing three different seasons?

You arrive at the field for the start of the game at 4 p.m. under sunny skies. What a beautiful spring day!

By the third inning, the breeze is picking up a bit, enough to warrant putting on that jacket you brought with you.

Once the sixth inning hits, you're wondering why you didn't listen to your wife and take your coat along with you, just in case it gets cold.

Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Students start to see the light at the end of the tunnel and begin counting down the days remaining in the school year. Everybody just seems to be in a better mood.

It truly is a great time of year. After spending the winter indoors, watching basketball in cramped gyms with bad lighting, it's nice to get back outside.

Even when you don't have a coat.

Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. His column appears every Sunday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2332, or by e-mail at

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