As a longtime fan of the Big East, I would often hear how the Catholic seven college basketball schools should breakaway from the football schools. In late 2012, the Catholic seven did decide to breakaway from the Big East, and they will form their own conference by 2014.
Most of the pundits in college basketball have applauded the move, and said the Catholic seven will do great own their own. I have nothing against the Catholic seven college basketball schools. Some media reports indicate that the Catholic seven, combined with a few additional teams like Butler, Xavier, Creighton, Dayton and St. Louis, will be able to get a big TV deal.
That may or may not be the case, but anybody who looks objectively at the Catholic seven schools breaking off from the Big East has to conclude that the schools will likely have a tough time of it on their own. Here’s why.
Catholic seven Big East schools not strong at making the NCAA Tournament
Only three of the seven Catholic schools have been to the NCAA Tournament with any kind of regularity over the last ten years. Marquette (eight out of 10 years), Villanova (seven), and Georgetown (six), have all made the tournament more often than not over the last ten years, but none of the three have made it in all ten years.
The other four schools have barely made the NCAA Tournament at all. Seton Hall has been twice since 2003, while Providence, St. John’s and DePaul have each only been once. Only one of the four, St. John’s, has made the tournament over the last five years.
Out of 70 total chances for NCAA Tournament bids, the Catholic seven basketball schools have only made the tournament a combined 26 times over the last 10 years. That pales in comparison to the six football schools that carried the Big East in basketball.
Louisville (nine times), Pitt (nine times), UConn (eight), Syracuse (eight), West Virginia (seven), and Notre Dame (six), made the NCAA Tournament a combined 47 times out of 60 chances over the last decade. That is over 78% of the time.
Most of the Catholic seven Big East basketball schools were living on the coattails of the other schools in the conference over the last 10 years. To think those schools are going to form a new conference and then somehow transform their programs into teams that make the NCAA Tournament in most years is not realistic.
Most of the Catholic seven Big East schools are small
None of the Catholic seven colleges are big, and most are pretty small, especially compared to the football playing schools in the Big East.
Number of undergrads
- DePaul – 16,500 undergrads
- St. John’s – 15,700 (no dorms, many commuters)
- Marquette – 8,400
- Georgetown – 7,600
- Villanova – 6,400
- Seton Hall – 5,200
- Providence – 3,900
The Catholic seven schools average just 9,100 undergrads each. The eight other schools still in the Big East in 2013, Louisville, UConn, Syracuse, Pitt, Rutgers, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, and South Florida, have a combined average of 23,900 undergrads each. That is two and half times the size of the average Catholic seven school.
That means a lot when you are talking about a teams fan base. The Catholic seven schools really lack the size to have a huge natural fan base. I really hope the Catholic seven can get a big TV deal from one of the networks, but realistically, who is going to sit down at night, or on a Saturday afternoon, to watch a Seton Hall vs Providence college basketball game?
Big East Catholic seven college basketball schools likely to struggle on their own
Given the lack of success the majority of the Catholic seven Big East college basketball schools have had over the last ten years in making the NCAA Tournament, combined with their small size, points to the the Catholic seven struggling on their own.