Getting Started At Big East Media Day

By Josh Herwitt - October 24, 2007

NEW YORK -- Big East Media Day has gotten underway here at the Theatre Lobby inside Madison Square Garden and the players and coaches of each team have been speaking for the last hour to the media.

Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese addressed the media to open up the event and touched upon a few points but specifically focused on the strength of the conference this year and the unfortunate NCAA Tournament snub that Syracuse endured last year even after winning 24 games overall and going 10-6 in the conference.

With that sentiment floating around the room, much of the questions being asked to the coaches have been about the difficulty that the conference schedule now presents and how that ultimately affects each team's postseason chances. And for many of the coaches here, the NCAA Tournament snub that left Syracuse settling for a NIT berth is something that they don't want to see happen this year.

Take the legendary UConn coach Jim Calhoun, for example.

Calhoun has always been an advocate of the Big East in every regard, and he seemed to make that pretty clear to the reporters surrounding his booth.

"When you look at the other leagues in the country, none of those teams at the bottom of the standings would win [conferences like] the CAA," he said. "In the Big East, that's not the case."

With the 16 Big East teams making it even more difficult now for the NCAA Tournament committee on Selection Sunday each March, there's a feeling with Calhoun and the other coaches present that the conference deserves a minimum of eight teams in the Big Dance each year.

Calhoun, even more, says the Big East deserves nine teams but understands that the likelyhood of that ever happening is rare, considering the talent that has emerged in many of the non-BCS conferences like the Missouri Valley and CAA. And after being in the Big East 22 years, there's no better place to be, says the 65-year-old coach.

"The Big East changed basketball in the East forever," Calhoun said. "...Evaluating the Big East is going to be tough every year now."

Part of the reason the conference has gained more exposure has been due to the rise of Big East football, particularly at South Florida, Cincinnati and Rutgers, who have impressed Calhoun over the course of the season.

"The rise of South Florida and Cincinnati...if I'm a football coach, I'm loving life right now," he said.

As far as his own team goes, Calhoun is confident that this year will be different than a year ago, when the Huskies managed to only go 17-14 overall and 6-10 in conference play.

"We're young and we're quick," he said. "But I haven't fully erased last year."

Two things Calhoun certainly hasn't forgotten about last season were the Huskies' field goal (42.2) and free throw (62.8) percentages, and if UConn plans to make a return to the NCAA Tournament like Calhoun has hopes for, the Huskies will have to improve significantly in those areas this season.

Posted by Josh Herwitt at 10:50 AM on October 24, 2007

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