Not only is the Catholic 7 splitting off on their own sooner than expected, the breakaway schools are also taking the Big East name with them.
DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova will form their new league starting this fall and will keep the Big East Conference name, according to an ESPN.com report. Atlantic 10 powers Xavier and Butler are expected to join the new Big East next school year, but there are conflicting reports about whether Creighton, Saint Louis and Dayton will also receive invitations.
The revved-up timetable hammers home the fact that next month's Big East tournament will be a true last hurrah for what was once the nation's most formidable basketball league.
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Syracuse and Pittsburgh are definitely ACC-bound for the 2013-14 season, with Notre Dame hoping to move up its timetable and join them next season as well, according to the ESPN.com report. Rutgers and Louisville will also be gone by fall 2014, which means only UConn, Cincinnati and South Florida will be left from the current Big East by the 2014-15 basketball season.
That the Catholic 7 is also running off with the Big East name is a coup for those schools. They'll have the more lucrative TV contract, the more established brand name and maybe the superior basketball league as well.
The presence of UConn, Cincinnati, Temple and Memphis will ensure the old Big East isn't irrelevant in basketball, but the potential of the new Big East is certainly intriguing.
Georgetown is a perennial power. Marquette and Villanova are traditionally strong as well. Providence is on the rise under Ed Cooley and St. John's is a brand name even if it's product has been largely inconsistent the past decade. Add in Xavier and Butler – two of the most successful and recognizable non-power six hoops programs – and you have a league likely to produce at least four or five NCAA tournament teams every year even if it doesn't expand past nine.
The question of whether to expand past nine is one that surely will be debated in the coming weeks.
A nine-team league would allow every member to face one-another twice, creating a true round-robin format. Furthermore, there's no reason for the nine schools to spread TV revenue among 1 to 3 more programs if they don't think those universities bring enough value to be worthwhile.
At the same time, a nine-team league could be vulnerable to future realignment poaching, plus Creighton, Dayton, Saint Louis -- or even VCU -- bring strong fan bases and fairly impressive basketball pedigree. Perhaps adding at least one of those schools now would be a worthwhile move.
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