Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Living with the Catholic 7's New Big East

The new Big East is not unsettling until you think about it. (holylandofhoops.com)

Has anyone properly addressed how odd the new Big East is going to be if Creighton joins the Catholic 7's 2.0 version with Butler and Xavier? Not according to Google because there were no appropriate results when I searched for "weird Big East Creighton." In fact, the most out-of-the-norm headline was a rumor about the Big 12 dropping all football programs and adding Creighton as well as Missouri Valley competitors Wichita State and Missouri State.

While the Big 12 getting rid of the biggest money-making sport would have been a surprise even at the conference's lowest point in realignment, it will not be a shock if the Bluejays defect from the MVC to take a place in college athletics' newest old conference.

What will make this conference so unique, if the Bluejays end up as a member, is the roster of teams that will be gunning for the same regular season championship. The grouping will encompass some of college basketball's historic cornerstones playing alongside programs that have surged more recently in a league that stretches across nearly half of the contiguous United States, although geography is less of an issue than ever in the realignment game.

Mid-major darlings like Creighton and Butler will mix with contenders like Georgetown and Villanova in a conference that, although it will be a conglomeration of solid teams, lacks a true powerhouse program. Despite the majority of schools coming from a (former) Power Six conference, the new Big East will more closely resemble a mega mid-major -- a conference that is at the top of it's class, but not quite on par with what remains of the NCAA's top Division I basketball leagues.

The Hoyas, along with Providence and St. John's, were founding members of the original Big East with 'Nova joining slightly later. History is on their side, but recent years have seen the programs post decent-to-good records, while rarely being legitimate threats to win their conference championship. (Georgetown's very strong season in progress is more of an outlier than a standard.) The other side of the coin sees the Bluejays, Butler and Xavier being marquee teams in their own less heralded conferences and either winning outright or sharing titles year in and year out in their respective spheres.

This would seemingly put the best of the Catholic 7 on the level with the mid-major imports. The sentiment is furthered with the speculative inclusion of programs such as Saint Louis, Dayton, Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth as soon as 2013-14 or 2014-15. These purported additions draw heavily from the Atlantic 10, often seen as the class of mid-major conferences, especially after sending eight teams to the NCAA Tournament just a few years ago.

Of Creighton and the nine schools already committed to joining this iteration of the Big East, four are locks to hear their names announced on Selection Sunday (Georgetown, Marquette, Butler and the Bluejays) in under two weeks and ESPN's Joe Lunardi is projecting Villanova as a play-in team. VCU and SLU are the only two prospective teams expected to make the NCAA tourney at this point, although that could change depending on the outcomes of conference tournaments.

Since only nine teams are committed to the new Big East at this point, this is merely one idea of what could happen. But if things shake out the way they are expected to, there needs to be a new term for such a unique conference; one that encompasses the strength of nouveau riche programs and those that could compete what was once the stacked Big East of old but can lay realistic claims to the new league's top spot. That term is not Catholic, after the majority of the schools' affiliations, but perhaps it is catholic, as in universal, appealing to a wide range of tastes.

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  1. I'd like to see them go to 12 and add Dayton and Duquesne.

  2. I'd really like to see a 16 team league adding SLU, Dayton, Siena, Detroit, Duquesne and Richmond.