Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Fox/CBS's Bill Raftery on the Big East's stability since realignment in 2013

By: Geno Green
Twitter: @TheGenoGreen

NEW YORK, N.Y.— From his days as a head coach at Seton Hall to being an analyst over the years for networks like ESPN to Fox and CBS Sports today, Bill Raftery has seen the Big East at every step.

Doubts were casted as to whether the Big East would survive after football schools, such as Syracuse and Pittsburgh left for greener pastures in the ACC in 2013, but the realigned Big East returned to its roots as a basketball league and Raftery is not surprised about the sustained success since.

“It speaks well of the teams to be in survival mode, even though some thought they would be an afterthought,” Raftery said at Tuesday's Big East media day at Madison Square Garden. “The [Big East] is a legitimate factor in the national rankings and NCAA Tournament selections. I think that speaks for itself.”

The rise of Villanova as a league power with a 2016 National Championship coupled with second week NCAA Tournament appearances from Xavier and Butler within a four-year stretch have kept the Big East in the national discussion.

For the first time since its existence in 1979, the Big East (March 7-10) will share the Madison Square Garden stage with the Big Ten (Feb. 28- March 4) as both leagues host conference tournaments a week apart. The two-week stretch gives fans a chance to watch the tradition of the Big East Tournament, with a chance to see Big Ten teams like Michigan State, Indiana and Purdue the week before, which Raftery sees as the best of both worlds.

“I think the fans in this area will be fortunate to see some great basketball,” Raftery said. “We know what the Big East is all about and the venues in the Big Ten are incredible. I am sure those kids in the Big Ten have to be feeling great to get a chance for the first time and that speaks for itself.”

A story by Jon Rothstein from FanRag Sports circulated on Tuesday about a rumor that the Big East could expand to 20 games in the near future. Rumors also came about on social media about the possibility of Connecticut being the 11th team to join the league if expansion happens to maintain the double round-robin schedule.

Raftery does not see a realistic scenario where a team like UConn could rejoin the Big East.

“The thing about UConn; the fact that everyone talks about having its football obligations. The football stadium it built, reinvesting in coaches and while it sounds great for them to come back, I don’t think in reality they will come back,” Raftery said.

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