We've had our go-arounds in regards to how ESPN feels about the Big East recently, and on Tuesday morning, Dana O'Neil contributed the latest absurdity from the Worldwide Leader.
O'Neil wrote a profile piece on Marquette's Henry and Wally Ellenson, although the thing is tilted towards Henry. 98% of the piece is quality, even if it is a lot of stuff that MU fans have already read about the Ellensons: Wally's a high jumper! Mom's the gym teacher at Rice Lake High! They used to choose up sides for 3-on-3 based on eye color! Henry had to get better because he was tagging along with his older brothers!
The other two percent, though..... well.
Ellenson is a freshman at Marquette, which frankly has more basketball history than LSU but isn't a big sexy hoops brand-named school. The Golden Eagles are in the still-trying-to-redefine-itself Big East as well as recreating their own program under Steve Wojciechowski.
This is not 1977, and constructing a basketball power at Marquette is not as easy as it was for Al McGuire. The Big East is a viable, basketball-first alternative for small, Catholic schools such as Marquette but the challenges of going against the boundless coffers of the football schools remains daunting.
It has been just 33 months since Marquette was in the Elite Eight. That doubled as the program's third straight Sweet 16 appearance and eighth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. It was also Marquette's 31st NCAA tournament appearance, which is tied for 12th most all time. If you honestly think that Marquette isn't a big sexy hoops brand-named school, you're not paying attention. Period.
Yesterday, the Big East posted three teams in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll, and four teams total in the top 25. Back in March, six Big East teams qualified for the NCAA tournament. That's 60% of the league. The vaunted ACC? 43%. Big Ten? 50%. SEC? 42%. Pac 12? 33%. If you honestly think that the Big East is still trying to redefine itself at this point, you're not paying attention. Period.
In 1977, charter airplane flights for basketball teams was not commonly available, much less for coaches making quick hit recruiting trips. There also wasn't an Internet to simplify the transfer of film of recruits, much less actual communication with recruits. This doesn't even get into the advances in technology that can help a team improve on a day to day basis. If you honestly think that it was easier to construct a basketball power in 1977 than it is right now, you're not paying attention. Period.
In 2012, Business Insider identified Marquette has having spent the 4th most money on their basketball program in the country, trailing only Kentucky, Louisville, and Duke. Those four schools were the only ones to have spent $10 million or more on their program. Oh, and Marquette turned a profit of more than $5 million. This list from later in 2012 from the Memphis Business Journal shows how much money every D1 school spent. The next non-football school after Marquette on that list? Georgetown. Also in the top 25? Seton Hall and St. John's. If you honestly think that Marquette and the Big East in general is finding the challenges of going against football schools daunting, you're not paying attention. Period.
I have tolerated the "oh, look at how cute the Big East is!" stories for long enough. Everyone is officially on notice. As a great man once said: Don't call it a comeback; we've been here for years.