Miller said he watched as much Big East basketball as any conference during the 2021-22 season, when he was out of coaching and working as an analyst for the Field of 68 podcast network. He was impressed by the energized homecourt atmospheres as so many league members, from Creighton in the Midwest to Providence in the East. (And, of course, Xavier in between).
“I really believe this: It’s the envy of a lot of other conferences right now,” Miller told The Sporting News, while acknowledging the loss of Wright as an active competitor has an impact.
“In some ways, it’s disappointing, because he became an iconic figure. And when an iconic figure coaches in your conference, I think that everybody looks upon it differently, with a lot of respect,” Miller said. “And not that that respect goes away; I’m sure Villanova will try as hard as they can to continue operating as they have.
“Trust me, I wasn’t looking forward to coaching against him. That’s a tough task. But he sets the bar, all that he’s accomplished, really sets the bar for everybody else. Not to have that, in some ways is disappointing. But I think the Big East is incredibly healthy, and I’m sure the group that now takes over the reigns at Villanova will do a great job.”
“From the competitive standpoint, we’ll see. He doesn’t have the experience that Jay’s had at Villanova with respect to being the top coach, and probably the best coach in college basketball,” Cooley said of Neptune. “I’m excited for Kyle. I hope they’re horrendous when they play Providence College – I’m trying to win, too. But I think Kyle will keep it right where it’s at; that brand is built just like Duke, like Kentucky, like Kansas. That is where Jay has put Villanova for time to come.”
VIllanova took the greatest advantage of the stage provided by the basketball-first Big East, with its Fox Sports contract providing extensive coverage and national exposure. Over the past half-dozen years, the Big East ranked among the top four conferences – in either the NCAA’s NET rankings or its former standard, the RPI – in all but one season and never won fewer than 73 percent of its non-conference games.
In the NCAA Tournament, however, the majority of league success was authored by Villanova. The Wildcats account for more than half of Big East wins over the past five tournaments. This is somewhat understandable given their two Final Fours and one NCAA championship in that stretch, but no other Big East member has more than four tournament wins since 2017.