Pitino: Deepest, most talented league in history

University of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino says the new BIG EAST will be the deepest, most talented basketball conference in the history of college basketball.

With U of L's move to the BIG EAST Conference, Louisville's Rick Pitino now finds his program a member of what he considers the basketball league, ever!

"We have the opportunity to play in maybe the deepest, most talented conference in the history of college basketball," Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino said. "I don't think we'll ever see the likes of this again because of the size of the conference. It will be very difficult for all of us and there will never be a night where one has an easy opponent."

Obviously the excitement generated by the announcement on Tuesday is an enormous boost to both the University and the basketball program and Pitino hopes league presidents are able to find a way to speed the actual process of expansion to allow U of L to play in its new league next season.

"We're very excited with this move," Pitino said. "I do hope that somehow, someway, one or two of us could move on a little earlier than expected. It's highly unlikely but you never know..they may need somebody right away."

And Pitino believes the fans will be the ultimate beneficiary of the move.

"The one's that benefit are all the Louisville fans," Pitino said. "Because the schedules are going to be so enticing, so stimulating for all of them in terms of outstanding competition."

Obviously, one aspect of such a large basketball league becomes how many league members can actually make the 65 team NCAA Tournament field each season. And Pitino thinks at least half may make it in a given season.

"I think when you have a 16 team league, you're probably going to have some years where you get eight or nine teams in, other years where you'll get seven or eight teams in," Pitino explained. "Everybody is going to be good but there's going to have to be six or seven that are great to make the NCAA Tournament.

With the league centered on the nation's largest media market in New York and with close historical ties to ESPN, media coverage of the BIG EAST conference could reach unprecendent levels for any league in the history of the sport.

"The media coverage is going to be unbelievable for a conference," Pitino predicted.

Another factor to be determined at a later date is the divisional make-up of the new league. While Pitino is interested to see how that process will work itself out, U of L Vice President and Athletic Director Tom Jurich says that an east/west split makes the most sense.

"It'll be curious how they break up into eight and eight," Pitino said of the divisional alignment of the BIG EAST Conference. "It'll be interesting to see how they do that."

And this league will not be a paper tiger. Not with the defending national champions, the preseason #1 ranked team, a 2003 Final Four participant, the dominant C-USA team of the past decade and a resurgent Louisville program in the mix.

"A lot of these BIG EAST schools are really on the upswing," Pitino said. "Pittsburgh and Syracuse have always been there. Connecticut is as hot as any team in the country. Notre Dame has really had a great turnaround in basketball. And then the teams you're adding are now riding a crest. Marquette is certainly riding a crest. Louisville has certainly always been there and now is making a resurgence back. Cincinnati has been a dominating team in the conference. And DePaul is a great area for recruiting and Dave Leitao will get it done in Chicago. It's a win, win, win for everybody involved."

Pitino also indicated that current arrangements with joining the BIG EAST call for U of L and the four other departing C-USA members to play two games per season against those remaining in the league for the next five years. However, Pitino explained that circumstances may change that plan

"I'm not sure whether that will be enforced or not," Pitino said. "No one knows."

And the BIG EAST Conference's impact on Pitino's recruiting efforts?

"It really hasn't been a factor to be honest with you," Pitino said of the BIG EAST's impact on recruiting. "We're having a great recruiting season this year and that's not why they're coming to U of L but, down the road, it will certainly benefit our program.

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