As far as basketball, F*CKING OF COURSE they were better in CUSA!! The Old Big East was either the best or the 2nd best basketball conference in the country every year! The competition is uncomparable. Memphis was their only true consistent competition every year. Besides, the addition of Memphis far cancels any shortcomings of Cincy, and the loss of the Cath. 7 will surely improve their record.
I missed this little tidbit.
The Old CUSA also had Louisville, Marquette, and a very good Charlotte program. Memphis was actually not that great in CUSA v1.0. They were not bad, but they were nothing like they are today. Cincy had the best winning percentage, the most championships. and a HoF caliber coach. Charlotte had the 2nd best winning percentage and I believe tied for second most CUSA championships. Louisville was third. Memphis actually played in the west division of CUSA, which was pretty poor and they still didn't have the number of wins that Cincy, Charlotte, Louisville, and maybe Marquette.
CUSA also featured a pretty good UAB program and a respectable Saint Louis program, as well as a DePaul program that wasn't always terrible. CUSA 1.0 was a 5 bid league some years. Not quite as good as the Big East as its peak, but a very stout basketball conference nonetheless. Cincy and Louisville were perennial top 15 programs with Cincy being ranked #1 in the country a few times.
Their decline was due more to losing Huggins than moving to a more difficult conference.
I'm not trying to argue anything here, just wanted to give you a little history on a very underrated league that was ripped apart by the first round of ACC expansion.