The new "Catholic Seven" conference is not only grabbing the Big East title from its current member schools, but also seems to be making progress in poaching from other conferences as well.
In a report filed on Thursday, ESPN's Brett McMurphy, Andy Katz and Dana O'Neil reported that Butler and Xavier would be joining the league. Though nothing has been finalized yet with the other two schools, the new Big East is also making headway in adding a 10th team, with Creighton being the current favorite.
Even more interesting is how fast this new amalgam of schools is shifting the college basketball landscape. The Catholic Seven—DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, and Villanova—had originally announced plans in December to leave the current Big East. But it was not clear whether that would be finalized in 2013 nor was it certain what form the new league would take.
However, as the ESPN trio reported, a Brinks truck's worth of television money may be expediting the process. The network is reportedly pushing to make a deal with the Catholic Seven happen and could announce the partnership on Tuesday:
Fox Sports Network is expected to announce the addition of the Catholic 7/Big East basketball league Tuesday in New York as part of the network's news conference announcing the addition of Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 channels.
Fox Sports Network's deal with the Catholic 7 is expected to be worth at least $3 million annually per school, sources said.
What exactly would Fox Sports' be money be buying? A league that would instantly be among the nation's best—and could become the preeminent basketball conference over the life of the deal.
Though that may seem a little hasty, let's imagine what the new Big East would look like this season, assuming that the trio of previously mentioned teams makes the leap (numbers via ESPN).
In a worst-case scenario, there are four teams heading to the Big Dance out of those 10. That's as many as ESPN's Joe Lunardi currently projects to make it from the SEC this season, a conference that boasts four additional schools and wasn't created out of thin air 10 minutes ago.
If you add Villanova and St. John's, both firmly on Lunardi's bubble right now, that's a 60 percent March Madness rate for the new Big East. They would have more representatives than every conference other than the Big Ten this season when accounting for the current Big East's losses.
As for their overall RPI, the new conference averages out among the best in the nation (once again excluding the current Big East). Their .5750 average would be third behind only the Big Ten and Mountain West.
Obviously, there are some slight kinks with those numbers. Schedule changes in the new conference would see alterations for each team's record and RPI. So it's impossible to truly calculate how this new league would fare against the nation's best outside of a theoretical sense.
But with Notre Dame also thinking about making a one-year pit stop with the Catholic Seven before heading to the ACC in 2014-15 and Providence emerging as a team to watch next season, it's safe to say the competition will be fierce.
That being said, the true calling card of the new Big East will be its rich history. Of the 10 schools that will likely comprise the new conference, eight have made the Final Four. Xavier, one of the "stragglers," has made the Elite Eight twice in the past decade, including last season. Creighton, the other, is arguably the biggest entity in the Missouri Valley Conference.
The new conference will boast three schools that have won national championships, six that have made it to the final game. Famous names like Patrick Ewing, Dwyane Wade and others all spent multiple years at the schools which will sign the charter.
In an era where football television contracts rule everything, this conference will be the exception. College basketball excellence will be the one and only goal of this new amalgam of teams, and if successful, there nothing stopping these schools from expanding in the future.
Originally dubbed the Catholic Seven, these 10 (or whatever number they end up with) are thumbing their noses at the establishment. Football doesn't matter. Basketball does.
And with a little luck and ingenuity, the new Big East may become the nation's best conference period.
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