Well, it’s official. Butler, Creighton and Xavier will join the new, Catholic 7-run Big East, just as expected. The moves, announced Wednesday, will be lauded, praised and explained as the “right ones” for all involved, and, really, there is nothing wrong with them.
Creighton breaks free from the Missouri Valley, where beating the likes of fellow mid-major toughies Wichita State and Northern Iowa was met with little more than a yawn outside of Omaha, Neb. Xavier ends an 18-year run with the Atlantic Ten in which it emerged as one of the staple programs for non-power-conference “near-excellence.”
Butler, meanwhile, bolts the same circuit after one campaign, essentially using it as a waiting room before entering into what it believes will be greener pastures.
The question is, will the new Big East offer greener pastures … for all involved?
Granted, the C7 – Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, St. John’s, Providence, Seton Hall and DePaul – felt its collective hand was called with other members of the old Big East going all-in with football. You can’t blame them for wanting to branch out and start over with a basketball-driven league. Call it a remake of Back to the Future with an athletic spin, since the genesis for that original grouping of Eastern schools back in 1979 was all about hoops in creator Dave Gavitt’s mind.
Choosing the aforementioned mid-major was a good idea, too. They’re proven entities, albeit on a smaller scale, at least in terms of perception, and Xavier and Creighton adhere to the same religion as the C7.
But the right, or best, moves for all involved … umm, that sales pitch hasn’t been bought yet here.
It still seems the all-Catholic approach was the way to go, especially if that approach included a national extension that included bringing the likes of Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s into the fold. Yeah, the Big East brand, which the C7 pilfered in its escape, would need to be lost … but that doesn’t seem such a bad idea. Right now, that label is tied to upheaval, mismanagement and greatness gone to the scrap heap.
Butler and Xavier, considering they are leaving a league that received five NCAA berths this season and had two other schools that surpassed 20 wins, actually may be stepping down in competition. Yeah, Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova remain consistent top-25 programs, but the bottom four of the C7 hasn’t exactly been stellar for a long, long time. DePaul peaked in the early ’80s, St. John’s the mid-’80s, Seton Hall the late ’80s and Providence last factored on the national stage in the mid-’90s.
If anything, you could almost slot the newcomers between the top three of the C7 and then its chum.
A major coup, supposedly, was the new circuit maintaining ties with Madison Square Garden to host its postseason tournament. But is it? The host teams for that event – every year – will be St. John’s and Seton Hall, two of its weaker programs, in a city that has more going on than a Keeping Up With The Kardashians episode and is open to welcoming every event on the planet, including other college hoops tournaments.
Villanova’s perpetual insistence on being the only game in town took Philly out of the mix as an alternative hub for the Big East, and one in which the conference tourney would have more importance within the city it was played. Saint Joseph’s and La Salle are just a few 3-pointers away from the Wildcats’ Main Line campus, and have had more success of late than St. John’s, Seton Hall, Providence and DePaul, but ’Nova wanted no part of linking with them.
Thing is, yes, so much of what went down makes sense – for all involved. The C7 has survived and landed safely elsewhere. Its invites were warmly received and accepted by three schools that believe they greatly improved their presence in the college basketball realm – and maybe they did.
It just seems short-sighted from here. Or like a player passing up an open shot beyond the arc to drive the lane with his team down three and less than five seconds remaining on the clock.
In other words, other options may have been better.