Making sense of the uneven Big East TV schedule

5 Sep

By Bobby Bancroft
National Hoops Report

Way back in July we got out first glimpse of the 2011-2012 Big East season when we found out which teams would be playing each other and where those games would take place.  Well on Wednesday we found out the final piece of the puzzle as the Big East officially released their conference schedule along with TV information and tip-off times for most games.

In other words, “game-on”.

It all gets underway on Tuesday, December 27th and concludes on Saturday, March 3rd but not before each team  puts themselves, and their fans, through an 18-game gauntlet, resulting in a grand total of 144 league games.   The Big East truly does live up to its name.  It’s Big.

For the fifth season in a row, every conference game will be available on one of the many ESPN channels, ESPN3.com, or CBS.  The Big East Championships will be held at the newly renovated Madison Square Garden for the 30th year in row from March 6-10, also on ESPN.

With all of those games on all of those channels, combing through the schedule for the best match-ups can seem like an overwhelming task at first.  One simple rule will help you find most of bigger games – follow the brightest TV cameras.  Picking out ESPN’s College GameDay and Big Monday games as well as those on CBS, should provide you with the best slate of games.

It’s not completely a foolproof technique, but it’s pretty darn close.  It’s also a solid strategy when trying to figure out which teams are most likely to be competing for NCAA Tournament berths.

Let’s breakdown the schedule (games on both networks are in bold):

ESPN:  We first look at the Big Monday games during our evaluation.  It all kicks off with a doubleheader on the Martin Luther King Day Holiday as Louisville travels to Marquette and Pittsburgh visits Syracuse.   The final Big Monday will originate from our nation’s capital as Notre Dame visits the Verizon Center to take on Georgetown.  In all there are eight games on seven consecutive Monday nights in January and February.  Ten of the eleven teams that made last season’s NCAA Tournament will be featured on Big Monday.  St. John’s is only team that didn’t make the cut.  Both Louisville and Syracuse lead the way with three appearances.

Jan 16 – Louisville at Marquette and Pittsburgh at Syracuse

Jan 23 – Syracuse at Cincinnati

Jan 30 – Pittsburgh at West Virginia

Feb 6 – Connecticut at Louisville

Feb 13 – Syracuse at Louisville

Feb 20 – Connecticut at Villanova

Feb 27 – Notre Dame at Georgetown

College GameDay enters its eight season on the road having featured more games from the Big East (11) than any other conference.  The 2012 edition will be no different as the Big East is currently the only conference scheduled for multiple games.  The stop at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh will be the first ever for Jay Bilas, Bobby Knight, Digger Phelps, and the rest of the GameDay crew.

Jan 21 – Louisville at Pittsburgh

Feb 25 – Syracuse at Connecticut

CBS:  Given the fact that CBS Sports has been doing business with the Big East since the 1983-1984, the longest between a broadcast network and a conference, it’s no surprise that they get their pick of top-notch games.  During the course of the season CBS will broadcast nine games featuring Big East teams, including five conference games featuring eight different teams.  Syracuse and Louisville again lead the way with two appearances apiece.

Feb 4 – Marquette at Notre Dame

Feb 11 – Connecticut at Syracuse

Feb 25 – Villanova at Georgetown

Feb 26 – Pittsburgh at Louisville

Mar 3 – Louisville at Syracuse

Analysis:  The networks seem to have identified a clear Top 4 teams in Louisville, Syracuse, Connecticut and Pittsburgh.  It will be interesting to see if they find themselves with the double-bye in NYC at the end of the season.   Ten teams find themselves in at least one big game, while six schools are left completely out of the spotlight – DePaul, Providence, Rutgers, Seton Hall, South Florida, and St. John’s.

It’s unclear as to how much influence TV executives have on producing the Big East schedule, but, as you can clearly see, three of the league’s mirror games are split up between both ESPN and CBS.  That can’t be a coincidence.

Below is a final breakdown of Big Game appearances.

Louisville – 6

Syracuse – 6

Connecticut – 4

Pittsburgh – 4

Georgetown – 2

Marquette – 2

Notre Dame – 2

Villanova – 2

Cincinnati – 1

West Virginia -1

 

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