The big news this week was the realignment (again) of the Big East. The so called Catholic Seven [Georgetown, DePaul, St. John's, Marquette, Seton Hall, Villanova, and Providence] have officially announced their intention to leave what was once the marquee basketball conference in the nation. Xavier looms as the biggest name that could break allegiance with another conference to join the basketball-centric conference that has been proposed. Closer to home, it is Shootout week. Come 7pm on Wednesday, the Musketeers will take on their arch-enemy afer a 10 day layoff.
Joel: So... what are your thoughts on the Catholic Seven coming after Xavier?
Brad: First blush I don't love it. The A10 has been great to Xavier and has put together a solid conference.I guess I'm a bit of a fundamentalist on this. I wouldn't mind seeing the A10 shed lesser lights though, so I'm apparently not totally opposed to some realignment.
Joel: I'm with you on the A-10. I love what we have here. We know that we're going to have a challenging out-of-conference schedule almost every year to bolster the resume. We know that we're going to have 10-12 conference wins except in down years. We'll have the occasional "bad win" kind of game against Fordham or GW, and we'll have some good resume games against VCU, Saint Louis, and Butler and occasionally Dayton, Richmond, and St. Joe's. By the time March rolls around, we'll almost always be positioned to at least have a chance to play our way into the tournament. But...
The landscape is unstable. Realignment has been seismic in the past few years, we've just avoided it by not having a football team. Our number one priority should be to find somewhere stable where we can avoid all that. If the A-10 wants to rededicate itself to being a great basketball conference, I'm all for that. If not, I'm open to exploring the Catholic Seven's offer. What we don't want to do is hold fast in the A10 and then have some of the other teams at the top bolt, leaving us in the new CAA.
The A-10 meeting this week will tell us a ton. I hope they come out of it saying we're all together and the dead wood at the bottom has to either improve or get cut. I think we can all agree that X is positioned well to pursue a favorable outcome in any event.
Brad: I get the stability argument but it seems like the classic girl who cheats on someone else to be with you. If the Catholic Seven (Catholic 7? Don't tell that business comp lady, but I like it better with the numeral) are willing to leave to leave the Big East, especially when teams like DePaul haven't been there that long are they really going to be more stable? What about when the next great offer comes along?
Right now, we play an awesome non-con, a solid conference, and with some luck can be a 3 seed. What, exactly, do we have to gain here?
Joel: Well, lots and lots of American dollars (Les Grossman voice) leaps to mind. The Catholic VII were basically marginalized in their own league by an agenda that was slave to football. Given the chance to get out of there before the basketball product became completely worthless, they jumped at it. This isn't the girl who cheats to be with you, it's the girl who dumps her abusive boyfriend and then starts dating you at a later point in time.
Don't get me wrong, I love what we have in the A10. If I could make certain that it wasn't going anywhere, I'd like that in yesterday. But the A10 hasn't exactly been the model of stability (see, for instance, the fact that it has way more than ten teams), so I think it's at least worth considering the Catholic schools' offer. Best-case scenario in my mind? Temple chickens out of the Big East move and Xavier uses this opportunity to leverage long-term stability in the conference and commitment to either actually making an effort or leaving the league from some of the perennial bottom-feeders.
Brad: That's a valid point. The Big East has, idiotically, destroyed its own best event in the name of a sport in which it barely competes. Does anyone actually care about Big East football as compared to Big East basketball? Yes, clearly some people do, but it boggles the mind. Think of what we are all losing here. You've got, just recently, the UConn/Kemba Walker run, the six OT game, and that very first day of the conference tournament, when you could turn on ESPN at noon and know that now the big boys had joined the action. We used to big screen in Criminology class to watch that instead of having class. All that is gone so we can get more Rutgers football? Stupid.
Joel: No question they crapped the bed on this one. I like the A-10, but wouldn't you love to see (spitballing here, take with a pound of grains of salt) X, the Catholic Seven, UD, Butler, Saint Lou, and VCU descending on MSG for a weekend-long tournament? That would be good television.
Brad: It would. To be honest though, I'd miss playing La Salle, UMass, URI, and teams like that. I would get over it, to be sure, when I saw Xavier pulling blue chip recruits and staying in the top 15, but I'm not certain an allegiance switch guarantees that. In short, I don't see why we do this unless there is an absolute certainty it puts us in a better position than we are now. Even if we become the C7 plus some, could we not have the occasional down year like this one?
Joel: Yeah, I'd miss those guys until we were playing St. John's at 2pm on a Saturday on ESPN. Nothing is certain, though. It's a tough decision for the Xavier administration to make but also a great opportunity. I think X is at the top of the list for the Catholic Seven; staying or going, that's leverage.
Shifting gears now, this team will be on the back of a ten-day layoff when they tip for the Crosstown Shootout. Does that help or hurt them?
Brad: Hurts, no question. All the film study in the world won't help when you haven't played a game in anger in the better part of two weeks. I didn't like the gap when the schedule came out, I like it even less now. It's hard to do anything well after a ten day break from it.
Joel: I think it helps. We've got JMart back, which is a huge factor. We were ten kinds of stagnant without him against Kent State until Red shot us out of it. Even with JMart, we weren't exactly clicking on either end of the court. Ten days off gives Semaj a chance to rest his legs, Taylor and Stenger some time to recharge their batteries, and the training staff a chance to find JRob a working set of testicles. We're going to need to find the form that we had against Butler. Ten days off gives the whole thing a chance to reset a bit.
Brad: Good game on ESPN.
Joel: Crazy finish brewing. No foul?
Brad: No, there was, it just, like the timeout, went uncalled.
Brad: Anyway, all things being equal, I hate the time off. You're right though, we need the rest and the recharge. We just cannot afford to come out flat or rusty, or we will get destroyed. That @BearcatPalinFan on Twitter is a hack, but raises the very valid concern that we get absolutely nuked on Wednesday. Of course, that was the case for Lenny Brown, Lloyd Price, Kevin Frey, or any other number of games when UC was overrated.