With the recent announcement of Notre Dame bolting for the ACC, the Big East will have to deal with another blow to what used to be the nation's top basketball conference. By 2014 the Big East will be without Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. West Virginia already joined its new conference, the Big 12, at the start of this football season.
The Big East is not crumbling because of basketball, but because schools want to play football in the power conferences. These schools not only want better competition, but also want to go where the dollars are calling.
Notre Dame isn't even joining the Big East for football. It left primarily because of money, but the Irish also abandoned ship because they can sense the demise of the conference. It isn't certain that schools like Connecticut, Louisville and Cincinnati will stick around, and with the Irish leaving, it could spur some more departures from the conference.
This is why Marquette needs to get out as fast as they can.
Let's face it—the Big East is trying very hard to salvage what is left of their conference, but the additions of Houston, Southern Methodist, Central Florida and Memphis simply don't replace what is already gone.
The environment around a Saturday showdown with Houston can't even compare to a Tuesday evening game against Pittsburgh. Fans will not buy season tickets to go to home games against these teams. They aren't big time programs, and they never will be.
The biggest reason why Marquette should leave the Big East is because they are developing into a very good program. Buzz Williams has led the team to back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances, and the team came in second in the conference last season.
Marquette has shown that they can play with the big time programs. Since joining the Big East in 2005, the Golden Eagles have gone .500 or better in conference play every season, winning 10 or more conference games in each season except the 2010-2011 season.
Not only is this program legitimate, but it is gaining momentum and is on the brink of excellence.
Should Marquette leave the Big East?
But where could Marquette go to if it were to leave? The ACC will have 15 teams once Notre Dame joins in 2014. The Big 12 and PAC 12 are a possibilities, but don't make sense geographically. The SEC, meanwhile, wouldn't accept a non-football team.
This leaves one possibility—the Big Ten.
But wouldn't adding another team to the Big Ten make it an odd numbered conference? Yes, and that would be a problem. My solution is to add not just Marquette, but to bring DePaul into the mix.
Excluding the teams coming into the conference in 2013, Marquette and DePaul are the two farthest west teams in the conference. Geographically it makes sense and could enhance some Midwest rivalries for both schools. The Marquette-Wisconsin game can be played twice a season, and DePaul could have a Chicago rivalry with Northwestern.
I know the Big Ten is an all-football conference, but adding DePaul and Marquette would work because they are both non-football schools. They could play well in basketball and not hurt the quality of the football.
With Marquette and DePaul, the Big Ten could become the toughest and deepest conference in the nation.
Which conference would you want to see Marquette move to?
Marquette is trying to stay loyal to the Big East, but it's time to throw loyalty out the window. Nobody has been loyal in this process, and although the elimination of some great programs makes it an easier road to a Big East title, that isn't what the players, coaches and fans want.
They want to play the best and the Big East is no longer the best.
This will be the last season of elite basketball in the Big East. The future of the conference is still uncertain and it wouldn't surprise me if more dominoes were to fall. Marquette has succeeded in every season since it joined the conference and is more than qualified to play and have the same success in the Big Ten.
Basketball season is the only season at Marquette University, and the players, coaches, fans and alumni deserve better than the lackluster competition of the dismantled Big East.