CINCINNATI (AP) - Xavier hits four 3-pointers for a 12-0 lead. Doug McDermott finds his long-range touch and gets started on a 35-point performance. Creighton’s formidable offense is rolling in front of 17,589 fans in Omaha.
The Bluejays rally to take the lead and hold on for a 95-89 win on Jan. 12 that becomes a defining moment.
A Big East team scoring 95 points? In the old days, two teams might not combine for that many.
In a lot of ways and for a lot of reasons, it’s a whole new Big East.
“To me, it’s been like the perfect storm,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said.
The rules have changed, and so have the teams. Seven holdovers plus newcomers Creighton, Butler and Xavier have given one of college basketball’s most familiar leagues a new look and a far different identity. Those physical, grind-it-out games are no longer the norm. There’s a big difference in the Big East.
“I like the direction it’s going,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said.
Through last season, the Big East could boast it had one of the best collections of teams in the nation and a distinct style that they favored. Big guys up front, big emphasis on defense and rebounding. And physical contact - lots of it. Scoring? Not so much.
That’s the way they wanted it. Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin noted that Big East games were officiated with that style in mind.
“It was basically: We were going to play Big East basketball,” said Cronin, whose Bearcats are in the first season of the American Athletic Conference. “So whatever rules were being enforced in other conferences, it was: ‘Well, the Big East is the best basketball conference, this is how we do things.’
“To me, at times it could get too physical, no question about it.”
In some ways, the Big East was Exhibit A for how the game had changed. Average points per game were down to 67.5 in Division I last season - the lowest total since 1951-52.
The NCAA cracked down on hand checking and cleaned up some of the contact under the basket this season, hoping to open up the floor. It’s working so far. Scoring in Division I is up 4.8 points per game this season, currently at 72.3 points per game, according to STATS LLC.
It’s even more pronounced in the Big East, where scoring is up from 64.2 points in conference games last season to 73 this season - almost 9 points per game. Field goal percentages have jumped from 41.8 percent to 44.1 percent, according to STATS.
Last season, only one Big East team averaged 70 points per game in conference play - Louisville, which is in the AAC with Cincinnati. This season, six Big East teams are scoring that many, with two others averaging 69 points per game.