Big East-SEC event lacks campus buzz

December, 11, 2009
12/11/09
3:42
PM ET
The SEC-Big East Invitational has one more season left in its four-year contract.

Pittsburgh, in the new home of the NHL's Penguins, is one site for next year. Nashville could be the other.

The event got a huge lift when 15,874 fans showed up at Madison Square Garden for Connecticut-Kentucky on Wednesday night. But only 9,353 were in Tampa last night for two Top 10 teams in Syracuse and Florida. There were undercards on both nights -- St. John's-Georgia in New York and Mississippi State-DePaul in Tampa -- that looked like JV games based on the crowds.

If this event is going to continue there has to be strong consideration to going to campus sites. The Big Ten/ACC Challenge only goes neutral with a gimmick game like North Carolina-Michigan State at Detroit's Ford Field. There have been a few others played in neutral sites like Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, but that's more of the exception than the rule.

DePaul at Mississippi State is going to be a much better draw in Starkville, Miss., than it ever would in Tampa, Fla. It's probably not fair to the teams not in the headline game to have to play in near-empty arenas.

The four remaining Big East teams to play in the event are Pitt, Notre Dame, Rutgers and Seton Hall. Arkansas still hasn't played in the event because of exam conflicts and that's why Mississippi State has already played twice. Four SEC teams were going to have to play in the event twice. Arkansas will likely be in next season with three others doubling up from the SEC.

The Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series has its flaws because it is spread out over a month. Still, these are campus-site games. That at least gives it a much better feel.

The Big East-SEC event was fortunate to have a blockbuster in New York with Kentucky-Connecticut. But that probably won't happen next season with the four Big East teams remaining. The organizers have to continue this neutral track for one more season but if the deal is renewed there should be strong consideration to going on campus.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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