The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Big East Conference Reemerges Stronger Than Ever

With the season starting in two weeks, Big East Media Day gave an inside look at what’s in store for the season.
Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan

Madison Square Garden hosted Big East Media Day on Tuesday with all 11 Big East schools in attendance eager to begin the 2023-2024 college basketball season. 

Commissioner Val Ackerman noted that this is the largest group of media to attend media day since the conference’s realignment in 2013. Since then, the Big East has won three of the last seven national championships and been to multiple Final Four appearances. Additionally, Ackerman talked about the level of dedication that this conference has for both men’s and women’s basketball. 

“If college basketball has a soul, you will find it in our conference,” Ackerman stated in her opening statement before the men’s media segment. 

When talking about the Big East, Ackerman made it clear that the conference would not be leaving the Garden any time soon. 

“We believe the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden is the best of its kind in college basketball.” The Big East has made a recent deal to keep the men’s tournament at Madison Square Garden until its 50th anniversary in 2032.

The rankings for the St. John’s Men’s team landed at No. 5 overall for the second year in a row. As for the rest of the Big East, Marquette notably jumped up eight spots from last year’s pre-season poll and landed themselves at the No. 1 spot. National Champions UConn are ranked at the No. 3 spot.  

Big East Men’s Preseason Coaches Poll:

  1. Marquette
  2. Creighton
  3. Connecticut
  4. Villanova
  5. St. John’s 
  6. Xavier
  7. Providence
  8. Georgetown
  9. Seton Hall
  10. Butler
  11. DePaul

The Big East Men’s Basketball teams have all changed drastically since last season, complete with head coaching shakeups and a multitude of new players in the mix. Throughout the event, coaches recognized St. John’s head coach Rick Pitino as someone who plans to revitalize the University’s program. 

In a press conference, Pitino told the press that he looks forward to ending his career at St. John’s and looks forward to building it into a national power. 

Xavier’s head coach Sean Miller said that Pitino’s return to the Big East “makes an already difficult, challenging conference that much more challenging.” Xavier finished second in the Big East last year after going 15-5 in conference play. “He’s one of the best to ever do it, hands down, and to have him as part of our league makes us even better.”

The Big East Men’s Basketball Coaches.
Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan

The Hall of Famer had his own thoughts on the conference. “I think it’s [the Big East] as strong this year as any other time in the history of the Big East, which is saying something,” Pitino said. 

Pitino previously coached in the Big East with Providence from 1985-1987, as well as with Louisville from 2001-2013 prior to the realignment of the conference.

Former Providence head coach and now Georgetown head coach Ed Cooley spoke about how it felt sitting behind a different banner on the floor today. “It’s been different. Obviously, it’s overwhelming. I’m very excited about where I’m at,” Cooley said. However, “I’ll always be from my home and I will cheer for Providence College.” 

Seton Hall head coach Shaheen Holloway spoke about the positive changes he’s found while coaching former St. John’s guard Dylan Addae-Wusu. 

“He’s my type of player, he’s a defender.” 

Holloway says that Addae-Wusu shoots better than he thought he did while watching him at St. John’s.

Big East Women’s Preseason Coaches Poll:

  1. Connecticut
  2. Creighton
  3. Marquette
  4. Villanova
  5. Seton Hall
  6. St. John’s 
  7. DePaul
  8. Butler 
  9. Providence
  10. Georgetown 
  11. Xavier

The women’s media day segment opened up with a statement from Commissioner Ackerman, who spoke about the recent changes from playing 20 conference games to 18 in a season. 

Ackerman also held a moment of silence for Georgetown head coach Tasha Butts, who passed away Oct. 22 from breast cancer. 

With women’s basketball growing, the conference is entering a bigger stage this year with 26 games streaming on Fox Sports channels. This is a huge step forward for women’s basketball with DePaul recently participating in the largest women’s college basketball game ever played against Iowa on Oct. 15, with over 55,000 fans in attendance during an exhibition game for charity. 

“For us and women’s basketball, it was huge,” DePaul graduate student Jordie Allen said. “It was a surreal feeling, knowing that we’re getting the recognition we finally deserve.”

St. John’s head coach Joe Tartamella said that “it gives everybody the opportunity to hopefully schedule the way they need to in the non-conference.” According to Ackerman, this change allows for Big East teams to play on a higher scale when the conference games begin. UConn will play against Notre Dame on Jan. 27 and South Carolina on Feb. 11 in between their conference schedule this year. 

St. John’s being ranked sixth overall was surprising as they made it into the NCAA tournament last March while Seton Hall did not make the tournament but played in the WNIT tournament. 

The Big East’s Women’s Basketball Coaches.
Torch Photo / Olivia Seaman

The 2022-23 Big East Sixth Woman of the Year recipient Unique Drake will “have to play a different role this year” for St. John’s in the starting lineup.

“She has to be a mainstayer out there,” Tartamella said. “She’ll be out there at the beginning and she’ll be out there at the end.”

Many Big East Womens’ rosters did not see dramatic roster changes. Junior Villanova guard Lucy Olsen spoke about how it’s been good to have a strong core staying together after losing Big East Player of the Year Maddy Siegrist to the WNBA over the summer. 

“We have a lot of returners which is nice. They hate to lose,” Olsen said about the team. She also said that the team has tasted what winning is like from last season after making it to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003. 

The Big East men and women will be starting their seasons during the first week of November. For St. John’s, the women start Nov. 6 against LIU at 7 p.m. and the men on Nov. 7 against Stony Brook at 7 p.m.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Torch
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of St. John's University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Sara Kiernan
Sara Kiernan, Sports & Photo Editor
Sara is a senior journalism student serving as the Sports Editor & Photo Editor. She is minoring in government and politics and is a sister of Phi Sigma Sigma's epsilon omicron chapter. She has been able to take photos at some amazing places including the Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden. If she is not taking photos on the court or writing, she has an iced coffee in hand with friends, walking around the city or watching any sports game that is on! LETS GO YANKEES!  Sara can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected] 

Donate to The Torch
Our Goal

Comments (0)

We love comments and feedback, but we ask that you please be respectful in your responses.
All The Torch Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *