Big East's Catholic 7 Needs Reality Check ... And National League

  on December 17 2012 5:55 PM

They’re gone.

It’s official. They’re outta here. See ya later. Sayonara.

With a sweeping stroke of self-righteous sanctimony, the seven Catholic, basketball-based schools in the Big East voted unanimously to depart the Big East as soon as possible, or whenever their football-focused brethren finish turning the conference into a pile of self-destructive rubble.

The only question is, where will they go?

Or, rather, what league of their own will they form?

Not for nothing, but these guys may be thinking a bit beyond their reality. Yeah, Georgetown and Marquette still have some national cachet. Villanova is just three seasons removed from a trip to the Final Four. However, the Wildcats seem to be fading fast as a power even with fashion plate Jay Wright still donning the finest attire a Division I basketball coach’s salary can finance.

As for the other members of the Catholic 7 – St. John’s, Seton Hall, DePaul and Providence … umm, those comments of “who” or “huh” heard resounding across the country should be a wake-up call to those receiving offers to join forces, not to mention those making the offers.

Others certainly may, and are welcome to disagree, but the thinking here is Butler, Virginia Commonwealth or Richmond or any other non-Catholic university with some hoops chutzpah doesn’t gain anything by pairing up.

Indeed, the intrigue, the interest, the true selling point that the departing Big East members have is their religious connection wrapped around a specific indoor, wintertime sport. Seriously, even non-Catholics would be curious to check out games pitting the best from the respective Loaves and Fishes divisions against one another.

Talk about a TV contract windfall …

Think of the hilarious, attention-grabbing commercials that could be used to hype an upcoming encounter. The sarcastic wit of Dom Irrera would play well as the Italian-American comic, a native of hardcore “Hail Jesus” South Philly, regaled insiders and outsiders alike as honorary emcee of the league’s postseason tournament – especially if the finale saw, say, nearby Villanova square off against Gonzaga at the Wells Fargo Center in his old neighborhood.

Creighton taking on Georgetown in D.C., or St. Mary’s pitted against St. John’s at Madison Square Garden doesn’t sound too shabby, either.

Notre Dame wouldn’t be the only Catholic institution that streamed through most of the nation’s consciousness anymore.

Kidding aside, where, exactly, do the Catholic 7 members get off being all high and mighty about themselves, well, as institutions of higher learning or basketball entities. Apparently, the final blow to their “dignity” in Big East circles was the conference opening up its doors to welcome Tulane.

How dare it … oh, the audacity.

It’s incomprehensible to think that officials of the crumbling organization would consider adding one of the nation’s best academic universities. Psssst, it compares quite well in that regard to the departing Big East school it essentially is replacing: Rutgers.

Let’s get down to business, though – basketball. For all the history attributed to and respect given to the Catholic 7, here is reality:

In the 25 seasons since Providence made its miracle run to the Final Four with current Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan running the point, a total of four appearances have been made by the Catholic 7 on college basketball’s grand stage – Seton Hall in 1989, Marquette in 2003, Georgetown in 2007 and Villanova in 2009.

The Atlantic 10, by contrast, welcomed two new members this season: Butler and Virginia Commonwealth. Combined, they have three Final Four appearances in the last three seasons. Both made the event in 2011, with the Bulldogs making the final a year after taking on Duke in the title game.

No Catholic 7 has played for a championship since Seton Hall did in 1989.