AUSTIN, Texas - Texas basketball coach Rick Barnes always thought Big East creator Dave Gavitt was one of those rare individuals who could see the writing on the wall before anyone else could even see the wall.
"He is certainly one of the great people that I have had the opportunity to meet in my life," said Barnes, who coached at Providence from 1988 to 1994 and regarded Gavitt, who died in September, as such a strong mentor he never made a major decision in his career without checking with Gavitt.
"I remember during my first Big East meeting, he talked about how we needed to play the Big East-ACC Challenge because there would come a day when football would want to take some teams from our league. And he was certainly right."
Needless to say, with his connections to the league, Barnes, whose team will host Temple on Saturday at 2:30 p.m., looked on with apprehension as it appeared the Big East was dissolving like an Alka-Seltzer tablet in a glass of lukewarm water.
"I don't quite understand all there is in expansion," he said. "Because I think there is something to those local, regional rivalries. And I think there is something to be said for student-athletes, their travel time, getting them home at a reasonable time so they can continue what we are supposed to be about, and that is education.
"Who knows how it is all going to end up? But I obviously have a fondness for the Big East. I thought it was a wonderful league and a great time for me. But they will make it work in the Big East because they've got the tradition. But some of the moves that were made, I don't think anyone could have predicted it."
Barnes is predicting his team will get its biggest test of the year from a school that's been speculated about in the Big East expansion talk when Texas (8-2) plays the Owls (6-2) at the Frank Erwin Center.
"There's no question that Temple will be the best basketball team we have played this year," Barnes said. "When you think of a Temple team, they are very simple in their approach and their players do not get themselves in trouble. They are in an attack mode; they come at you hard on both ends, so you have to be ready to compete. Believe me, we know how difficult a game this is going to be."
Barnes is hoping to get a helping hand from Philadelphia's Jaylen Bond, a 6-foot-7 freshman who played at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School.
"He started our first two exhibitions but maybe didn't progress the way we wanted him to," Barnes said. "He was sure trying, but he was having some difficulties understanding the offense. Once you start putting in concepts it does take freshmen a little time to grasp that."
But Bond showed his potential by posting his first career double-double with career highs of 18 points and 12 rebounds in a 93-40 win over Nichols State last Tuesday.
"The other night he played terrific," said Barnes. "He did everything we wanted him to do in terms of getting after it on the offensive glass and the defensive glass. He's not afraid of competition. He will compete. Now, he's not having to think too much, just get right in the repetition of where he's supposed to be."