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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Big East defectors focusing on the present

Big East women's basketball media day rarely changed, at least from my vantage point, year after year.

The UConn table would be the most popular destination for the assembled media while Notre Dame and Rutgers tended to get plenty of attention as well.

Today I found myself making the rounds to the Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Providence, St. John's and Syracuse tables to track the comings and goings of the ever changing Big East.

Pittsburgh and Syracuse have already negotiated their exits from the Big East and they will be members of the Atlantic Coast Conference and Notre Dame is probably not far behind.

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw's take on the situation the departing schools find themselves is pretty similar to that of Pittsburgh's Agnus Berenato and Quentin Hillsman of Syracuse.

“We are here for the league this year, this is going to be a great season again,” McGraw said. “The league is so strong and there are so many great teams here. I love being in the Big East, it has done great things for our program, we have been in the NCAA tournament every year since we joined the Big East and we’ve had a lot of success.”

Syracuse and Pittsburgh will be leaving the Big East at season’s end. The Orange has a veteran nucleus to build around and was picked to finish seventh in the preseason poll.

“Obviously it is a special conference for us,” Hillsman said. “We have all been here and kind of grew up in this conference but more than anything we just want to win. We want to put the best product on the floor and win our games.”

Berenato didn’t pull any punches when stating that scheduling one of the Big East powers as a non-conference opponent is highly unlikely since the Panthers will play an 18-game schedule in the ACC beginning next season.

"I love the Big East," Berenato said. "The people really embraced me when I came to the Big East and I have some nice friends in the Big East. The only thing is I am not going to a slack conference. The ACC is pretty tough and we play 18 (conference games) so you want to have some of these teams as rivals or non-conference (opponents) probably not, I will see them in the NCAA tournament. I love them and I will always be there for them. As coaches I could see (Villanova's) Harry (Perretta) calling me up or me calling Harry up saying 'hey, could you help me out with this?' I have no problem calling up Susan Robinson, I called her up last year when she got in and gave er the lay of the land with a couple of different things in the Big East."

Hillsman was noncommittal on the subject while McGraw said contact has already been made to face UConn in a non-conference series when they leave the Big East.

“We definitely want to and we have already called,” McGraw said. “Depending on when we get out of the league we will be able to pick that up again. I love the rivalry. You want to challenge yourself; you want to play a good team. You want to play a great schedule outside the conference. When we do go to the ACC we would like to keep playing them.”

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said it was too early to determine the status of a potential non-conference series with the Fighting Irish.

The best stuff from Auriemma on the subject did not get uttered today but was said following Tuesday's practice.

"I think all of that remains to be seen," Auriemma said. "I can see us playing them twice at Giants Stadium and once at their place, I think that will be a big game. Outdoor like the hockey festival. once at Giants Stadium, once at Gillette Stadium and once in South Bend, what is wrong is that?"

One of the results of the changing landscape in the Big East is one fewer game on the first day of the Big East tournament at the XL Center. Big East associate commissioner Danielle Donehew said that there will be just one session on the first day of the tournament since the game between the No. 9/16 seeds has been eliminated since there are only 15 teams in the conference. Now the No. 9 seed doesn't have to play until the second day of the event.

Also, with the addition of Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, Southern Methodist and Temple next season the Big East will go to an 18-game schedule in the regular season. If Notre Dame is in the league next season  each team will play one team twice and the other teams once and the repeat opponents will be announced in June. If Notre Dame jumps ship after this season it is likely that the format will be similar to the one utilized this year with each team playing two others twice and facing the rest of the teams once.

UConn junior guard Bria Hartley and Notre Dame senior guard Skylar Diggins were asked to represent the student-athletes and address the crowd. Hartley admitted that she was "nervous, actually very nervous."

Hartley said she should be back at practice on Monday as she took a week off to rest a tender left ankle.

"I'll be back on Monday, just a week to give it extra rest and it should be good. The last couple days of practice it has been a little difficult to be on the sidelines."

Geno Auriemma spoke for nearly an hour and as is pretty standard for him, he addressed a variety of subjects including giving his take on the decision for Trenton, N.J. to lose hosting rights for the 2013 NCAA basketball regional that the Huskies likely would have been sent to because New Jersey recently passed a law allowing betting on college sports.

"This idea that every year people have to be bidding to have it and then they do a lousy job with it anyways and then you can't even get people to bid in certain parts of the country. You just have to identify four spots, go there and let's make it work.

"It is convenient for a lot of people but I have noticed that whenever we have regionals in the big cities, we have them in Philadelphia and other places it doesn't work. There are a lot of (college) sports that don't work in a lot of pro cities. Certainly colleges are fighting for space. Trenton is a good site because it is easy. I don't know how that rule came about, how that happened."

Auriemma was asked if he was open to reviving the non-conference series with Tennessee.

"I think anything is possible, I don't rule out anything down the road who knows."

I'll have more later on the three first-year head coaches in the Big East (Georgetown's Keith Brown, Joe Tartamella of St. John's and Providence's Susan Robinson Fruchtl).

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The NCAA has almost reached it's end. They are outmoded, fuddy duddy and an impediment to College sports. Drop Trenton because the state approve gaming??? There is no where in the USA, maybe world, that gambling on college sports does not take place.

I don't want to play ND after they leave the BE. Tenn may never be a power without Pat. Jim Fuller I love your columns and videos, just great and you are professional.

8:50 AM 

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