Big East the best?
Published 10:47 am Friday, April 9, 2004
All the talk throughout the 2003-04 men's college basketball season was about how good the Atlantic Coast Conference was.
Even the Southeast Conference was considered one of the better basketball conferences this past season.
While both conferences landed six teams in the NCAA Tournament, another conference quietly slipped in six teams of its own.
The Big East Conference placed Connecticut, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Boston College, Seton Hall and Providence among the field of 65.
UConn went on to be the national champion, marking the second straight year the Big East has won the title.
Not only that, but the Connecticut women's team made sure the Big East streak stayed alive in the women's NCAA Tournament with their third straight championship.
People around here are predominantly Big Ten fans, and that's understandable. We're surrounded by Big Ten schools and it is a solid conference, even if the basketball was down a bit this year.
But if you're a true college basketball fan, you've got no choice but to take advantage of Notre Dame's membership in what may be the best basketball conference in the country.
Producing two straight men's NCAA champions and three straight women's NCAA champions is something no other conference can claim, at least right now.
The best thing about Notre Dame's membership in the Big East Conference is what it's done for the Irish programs. The Notre Dame men were on a downward slope until the Big East came calling and invited them in.
From that point on, recruiting has improved and that cures almost all problems. With better players come better fan support. With better fan support comes more excitement from the players. With more excitement from the players comes better play and that leads to a program's success.
Same thing for the Notre Dame women. They weren't in as bad a position as the men, but joining the Big East sure got them over the hump.
Both Notre Dame basketball teams annually entertain some of the elite basketball teams in the country and are gradually earning that distinction themselves.
The Notre Dame men played Connecticut twice, beating the Huskies once. The Irish also played Syracuse twice, Pittsburgh twice, Seton Hall once, Boston College once, Providence once. The Irish also beat Syracuse and Seton Hall once each.
The Notre Dame women also pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the season, knocking off Connecticut.
So, next year when you get a yearning for good college basketball, look no further than Notre Dame.
Dan Weiss is sports editor of the Niles Daily Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org