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Looking back at the Big East's realignment and recruiting impact

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In short: they're doing just fine.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

H/T to reader Rob LaRubbio who had a great idea to take a look the change in recruiting success for all those involved in the Big East's conference realignment - those that stuck around, those that joined, and those that left.

The popular narrative was that the Big East has been struggling - in reality the only thing struggling has been the TV ratings. The conference has had plenty of on-court success and seems to be recruiting at a high level. I decided to take a deeper dive and look at the average team ranking (per 247's Composite, an aggregation of the leading recruiting services) in the four years prior to re-alignment and the four years following it.

I'm no statistician and these are arbitrary numbers for sure, but we've only got three+ years worth of data since the split, and four years felt like a good number since that is the expected matriculation for most recruits. Plus the recruiting databases get a little murky the further you go back and I wanted to avoid trying to pinpoint Creighton in the early 2000s.

Again - this is not a science. Different programs have different needs & strategies, and the recruiting team rankings typically favor quantity or quality. But this should give a decent picture of the way every school is trending. Also, this does not take into account transfers in or out, so keep that in mind. One last caveat - if you see "250" it means that team wasn't in the team rankings for that year (i.e. bad).

First, let's look at the Catholic 7 that stuck with the Big East brand.

Team 2009 2010 2011 2012 4-Year Avg. 2013 2014 2015 2016 4-Year Avg. Trend
Villanova Wildcats 5 34 28 38 26.25 36 46 30 45 39.25 -13
Georgetown Hoyas 106 12 17 19 38.5 89 7 26 96 54.5 -16
Marquette Golden Eagles 15 15 36 72 34.5 7 94 13 15 32.25 +2.25
St. John's Red Storm 65 146 10 37 64.5 82 102 27 21 58 +6.5
DePaul Blue Demons 137 67 49 250 125.75 45 87 78 65 68.75 +57
Seton Hall Pirates 136 88 52 250 131.5 93 16 81 87 69.25 +62.25
Providence Friars 48 58 81 31 54.5 48 20 71 94 58.25 -3.75

Thoughts:

  • You can argue from this that realignment didn't have much impact for these historically strong basketball brands.
  • Hell, it even helped DePaul and Seton Hall - more notoriety and all with some of the bigger fish gone.
  • Some wild fluctuations from Georgetown - would need to dig deeper to understand that.
  • Villanova's 2009 ranking is clearly skewing their trend. Otherwise, they've been a model of consistency and as we've discussed, it's finally paying off.

Next, let's look at the schools that joined the Big East, since it was a step up for all of them.

Team 2009 2010 2011 2012 4-Year Avg. 2013 2014 2015 2016 4-Year Avg. Trend
Xavier Musketeers 170 19 20 29 59.5 61 17 110 31 54.75 +4.75
Creighton Bluejays 198 154 114 250 179 162 54 65 128 102.25 +76.75
Butler Bulldogs 213 63 61 70 101.75 50 63 103 50 66.5 +35.25

Thoughts:

  • Was very surprised to see Xavier around the Top 30 pre-Big East. Knew they were good, but...Chris Mack impact?
  • No surprise to see Creighton make a monster leap. Good fanbase, good facilities, good brand. Jumping from the MVC to the Big East has been huge for them.
  • Same thing for Butler - their deep runs in the NCAAs were definitely a factor but they've sustained that success on the Big East platform.

Here are the schools that left for the American - a perceived lateral move.

Team 2009 2010 2011 2012 4-Year Avg. 2013 2014 2015 2016 4-Year Avg. Trend
Connecticut Huskies 11 22 25 23 20.25 40 44 39 5 32 -11.75
Cincinnati Bearcats 27 84 29 86 56.5 25 36 58 57 44 +12.5
South Florida Bulls 89 100 103 54 86.5 35 78 47 74 58.5 +28

Thoughts:

  • Pretty neutral for UConn, which should be expected given their brand and success. Same goes for Cincinnati.
  • The surprise to me is USF, which was a tire fire under Stan Heath. Orlando Antigua is a fair recruiter with a solid resume but still, I'm surprised.

Finally, here are those that left for the Power 5, unquestionably a step up in notoriety.

Team 2009 2010 2011 2012 4-Year Avg. 2013 2014 2015 2016 4-Year Avg. Trend
Louisville Cardinals 17 61 4 69 37.75 5 5 6 84 25 +12.75
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 58 51 47 28 46 15 56 44 37 38 +8
Pittsburgh Panthers 21 33 11 24 22.25 30 84 84 95 73.25 -51
Syracuse Orange 190 5 13 36 61 8 33 8 33 20.5 +40.5
West Virginia Mountaineers 37 50 33 30 37.5 17 76 35 73 50.25 +12.75
Rutgers Scarlet Knights 49 85 250 87 117.75 99 61 45 88 73.25 +44.5

Thoughts:

  • Like Villanova, Syracuse's number is really being skewed by 2009. They're strong and will continue to be strong despite sanctions - but the ACC move may help them in the long run.
  • The best laid plans, eh Pittsburgh?
  • Rutgers continues to be incredible. Improved recruiting with worse results.
***

As I said, this shouldn't be taken as gospel. There's plenty of variables that aren't included in here. But I think we can put to rest the narrative that the Big East is suffering. Most of the schools (Big East or not) are recruiting at just about the same level.

Certain programs struggles on the court and other mitigating factors may play a role, but the narrative seems a bit overblown.