John Feinstein, who has written basically every seminal college basketball book known to man, has released a take of the Catholic Cabal that plugs in a lot of holes for those of us in the dark (you and you).
According to several people with knowledge of the situation, the group that has come to be known as college basketball’s “Catholic 7” will eventually grow to 12 — perhaps not all of them Catholic — when they formally begin play as a conference.
Twelve. That’s the magic number for UD. Anything less than that and things start getting a bit murky. The phrase “eventually” does leave open some room for speculation. If UD is indeed being strongly considered, they may have to wait for the league to expand from 10 to 12. Clearly, it would be preferable to be included in the new league’s inaugural season, but beggars can’t be choosers.
There has been a good deal of speculation about who the other schools in the new league might be since the Catholic 7 informed the Big East in December that they were leaving the floundering league. In all likelihood, four schools are virtual locks to be invited: Dayton, Xavier, Saint Louis and Butler. The first three are Catholic schools. DeGioia and friends would probably be willing to make an exception for Butler because the school has become a national basketball power and would make the league’s television package a good deal more lucrative.
I can’t imagine the C7 would let something silly like religious affiliation get in the way of cold, hard cash. That’s simply not the Catholic way.
The conference leaders want six eastern and six western — really, midwestern — schools. The eastern division of the league will consist of Georgetown, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Villanova, Providence and either Richmond (also a non-Catholic school) or Siena — a late entry but a potentially appealing one because it’s a Catholic school that (more importantly) plays in a 15,500-seat arena in Albany, N.Y.
Siena is kind of surprising, but it is a Catholic institution that plays its home games in a nicer building than the majority of the proposed league members. The Saints certainly make more sense geographically than Richmond.
The western conference would consist of Marquette, DePaul, Saint Louis, Xavier, Dayton and Butler. If Butler decides not to leave the Atlantic 10 — which it joined only this season — or if the presidents decide to go with Catholic schools only, the University of Detroit Mercy would come into the picture. Creighton, another Catholic school considered a potential candidate, is considered too far west (Omaha, Neb.) for teams in non-revenue sports to travel.
Detroit? Suck it up, go to Omaha. Nothing is worse than Detroit. Marquette, Saint Louis, Xavier and Butler? UD better get used to a lot of sub .500 years.
Now it appears that the Catholic 7 may launch as early as next season as a two-division, 12-team league with a TV contract that will probably be comparable to what the former Big East schools would have made if they had accepted ESPN’s offer.
In the next few months, the league will formally decide what schools it will invite to join, no doubt after first learning which ones will accept their invitation. It must also resolve two issues with its former conference: who gets to keep the Big East name and who might play their conference tournament at Madison Square Garden. The smart money is on the remaining Big East teams hanging on for dear life to the conference name and MSG preferring the new league, which will have a number of glamour teams, to be its March tenant going forward.
I could give two shits about the Big East name, it lost all of its cachet a long time ago. Much rather be able to take a short subway ride to MSG for the conference tourney, but that’s just me. You can’t have a better showcase for your league than concluding your conference season in the Garden.