When the Catholic 7 broke away from the Big East I wrote that the most likely additional teams were Xavier, Butler and VCU and that they should be able to keep the Big East name due to the breakdown of football vs. basketball schools with standing in the conference. Andy Katz and others at ESPN are reporting that three of those four things are happening now with Butler set to join next year as a non-Catholic addition. Butler has done well in game against the Big East in the past.
If Thursday nights report from ESPN is confirmed and Xavier and Butler will join the Catholic 7 – Georgetown, Marquette, St. John’s, Villanova, Seton Hall, Providence and DePaul – and the teams will retain the Big East name, then the only question remaining from my original prediction is if the conference wants to stretch to Virginia to get VCU as a second non-Catholic member. ESPN is reporting that the favorite for the 10th spot is now Creighton, which was thought in the past to require too much travel of the non-revenue sports to get to Nebraska.
Butler’s stunning upset of Syracuse from the Big East started a string of upsets that put them in the 2010 NCAA Championship game. In 2011, they had the most improbably win against Pitt when Pitt committed a foul 85 feet from the basket in the final second to let Butler go to the other end of the court and shoot free throws and ultimately stun the Panthers en route to a second straight appearance in the national title game, where they fell to UConn of the Big East. While those three Big East teams will no longer be in the conference, Butler was a logical geographic link along with Xavier between DePaul and Marquette and the eastern members of the Catholic 7.
Xavier, which seemed like the most obvious of all additions due to keeping the Cincinnati footprint with the Bearcats staying with the non-Catholic football teams, and the fact that Xavier is also Catholic. ESPN confirms reports by Breitbart Sports and others that each school may receive $3 million per year in the TV deal, which is about double what basketball schools were receiving in the past even though the conference was one of six BCS schools.
That would keep all teams near to major airports to hold down prices for the rest of the 14 teams that all Big East schools have been required to maintain to be in the conference. Butler and Xavier connect the borders of the states of all teams except Georgetown, stretching from Wisconsin (Marquette) to Illinois (DePaul) to Indiana (Butler) to Ohio (Xavier) to Pennsylvania (Villanova) to New Jersey (Seton Hall) to New York (St. John’s) with a maritime border to Rhode Island (Providence).
While Georgetown is in the District of Columbia, it has easy access to the Northeastern schools, and VCU located in Richmond, Virginia would be an even easier drive down I-95.
Some proponents of an all-Catholic League had advocated for Creighton as well as for St. Louis, who both have very strong teams but would pull the conference west – and an expanding geography was one reason the Catholic 7 initially moved away from a Big East that had stretched into Florida and Texas.