With the Catholic 7 poised to break off from the Big East at any moment, and reports surfacing that the group will both take the conference name with it and add a non-Catholic to the mix, it seems as good a time as to toss in my two cents – or an Our Father and Hail Mary – before the proceedings officially commence.
For starters, and enders, adding a non-Catholic such as Butler makes no sense to me. It defeats the whole purpose of Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and DePaul leaving the Big East and creating a league of their own. Their main cache – and draw for future fans – is sharing one singular symbolic display of athletic oddity: Catholic schools bucking the norm of large, state-funded schools playing big-time college basketball.
OK, so the final four schools mentioned above haven't exactly been top 25 relevant for close to two decades, but the theory holds ... and they've all played against the big-timers throughout that time.
With apologies to the Bulldogs and their fine, non-Catholic, albeit Midwestern-clean, program, here is my suggestion on what makes the most sense for this new endeavor: drop the Big East label, make it a national league, break it into two divisions, go get the real big Dawg out there and have a postseason tournament that takes full advantage of national appeal.
The divisional breakdown for the National Catholic League would be as follows …
EAST – Villanova, Georgetown, St. John's, Seton Hall, Providence and newcomers Saint Joseph's and La Salle (suck it up, Villanova, and finally grasp the concept that being linked to fellow Philadelphia schools, especially those that are Catholic, is a positive and gives you, and them, a leg up on being THE HUB for this league).
WEST – DePaul, Marquette and newcomers Xavier, Dayton, Creighton, Saint Mary's and – drum roll, please – Gonzaga.
The reality is Gonzaga – not Butler – is the big "catch" for any league seeking to reel in some mid-major turned major pop, and was long before reaching its current position of perceptive strength in the game’s hierarchy, poised to take hold of No. 1 after this weekend. It also brings the key quality to this latest reshuffling of being Catholic, not to mention having a great – and still evolving – rivalry with Saint Mary's.
There would be several media-strong sites to consider on a rotation basis for this league's postseason tournament: New York City (St. John's, Seton Hall), Philly (Villanova, Saint Joe's, La Salle), D.C. (Georgetown), Chicago (DePaul), San Francisco (Saint Mary's) and Seattle (yeah, Gonzaga is on the other side of the state, but the city embraces the Zags).
That being said, keeping the site choices to two or three options might be a better way to go. My choices: Chicago, Philly and an ironic wild-card of Las Vegas – which would be a morphing of Saint Mary's and Gonzaga as hosts, and the ultimate little poke at the whole “holier than thou” even in sneaks and shorts thing by the Catholics themselves as they aligned with Sin City.
Hey, why not? All of this is about money anyway – which makes Vegas the perfect setting to crown its National Catholic champion.