"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Exciting Questions: Mayo back? Catholic Big East School Breakaway with Gonzaga?

Exciting news is hitting in the aftermath of the big win over Wisconsin. First, it appears Todd Mayo is done with exams and may be back on the roster afterall. Hopefully Jae Crowder has encouraged his Mavericks teammate O.J. Mayo to get on his little bro, but this would also be a great story of "Tough Love" from Buzz. As I've written, I believe Mayo is the difference between a ranked team and a bubble team this year, but more important is essential to making MU an Elite 8 team next year.

On the conference front, even many of the strongest advocates of sticking it out with the Big East as long as we could realized Louisville had to stay for it to work. With them gone, it looks like the 7 remaining Catholic schools are ready to break and hope to retain the Big East name for a basketball only-conference. I already did a piece ranking all 41 Catholic schools in the country, but today I broke down the 14 schools that might form a Catholic Big East based on the number of NCAA bids they have received in the past 10 years (automatic bids with a 13 or lower seed not counted). the most interesting question is Gonzaga, which apparently wants to join but would require a long flight to Spokane. However, the Zags are the one Catholic school worth it with 14 straight NCAA bids and obviously 10 in the last 10 years. 

Marquette has 8 bids in the last 10 years, the best of any of the seven breakaways, but Xavier also has 8 in 10 years and would seem the most obvious add to bridge the geography between the Midwest and Eastern teams.  A very good 10-team conference with home-and-home is my preference, with Dayton being my choice if it were decided to go all-Catholic, or Butler if not.

There are four other Catholic schools who could be added if the conference wanted to go past 10, but my fear in doing that Marquette being put in a Western Division meaning only traveling every other year to the Eastern markets while traveling to Nebraska and San Francisco to play Creighton and St. Mary's - great programs but I think Gonzaga is the only one absolutely worth the trip.

Catholic SchoolsBidsCurrentNotes
Gonzaga10WCCbest available, 1 Catholic team worth a long flight
Xavier8A10keep Cincy market
Villanova7BEprob keep St. Joe's out
Dayton3A10prefer Xavier to keep Cincy market
Seton Hall2BE
St. John's1BE
If go past 10
Creighton4MVCif build Western Div around Gonzaga (Neb)
St. Mary's4WCCif build Western Div around Gonzaga (San Fran)
Saint Joseph's3A10Backup- Philly already covered with Nova
St. Louis1A10if Western Division, but with no Rick can they compete?


Brendan McCarthy said...

The "Artist-formerly-known-as-the-Big-East-Basketball" as well as other schools have large followings in very large TV markets. Georgtown for example is widely loved in the DC metro region, from alums as well as regional "natives." The same is the case for St. Johns, Villanova, etc. There is a market for a new basketball power conference that would take advantage of these large media markets, and NBC with its new partnership with Yahoo would be a perfect fit.

The A-10 conference has floated the idea of offering the BigEast basketball-only schools refuge; NOT a good plan. A 21-team conference is a nightmare. Here's what needs to happen: BigEast should fold as a conference (the BBall only teams "reportedly" have the votes to disband until July1 and can choose to retain the assets, name, etc.), then the B-Ball only schools go get Gonzaga, Xavier, Butler and maybe a few more West coast teams like St. Mary's or Pepperdine. You make East and West Divisions; where you play your own division opponents home/away and play teams in the other division just once thus limiting cross country travel to 3 road games on the opposing coast per year.

It would look something like (historical highlights in paranthesis):

Villanova (Final Fours and Champion)
Gtown (Final Fours and Champion)
St. John's (Final Fours)
St Joes (Elite Eight)
Providence (Final Fours)
Seton Hall (Final Four)
Richmond (Sweet 16)
VCU (Final Four)

St Mary's (Elite Eight)
Gonzaga (Elite Eight)
Santa Clara (Final Four)
DePaul (Final Fours)
Pepperdine (NCAA tourn)
Marquette (Final Fours and Champion)
Butler (Final Fours)
Xavier (Elite Eight)

Brendan McCarthy said...

This gives you a presence in most every major TV market outside of Texas, Atlanta, and FL. Also the schools are all located in major cities so travel for the schools is easy/cheap (Mostly direct flights and better than their current travels). These schools all have "storied traditions," with most having been to Final Fours including several within the last few years and countless Hall of Famers. This alignment would put teams in LA, Chicago, NYC, SF, Philly, New England, DC, etc. These are some of the largest media markets with large local followings, not to mention they have very successful alumni that are an appealling advertising demographic (Most have easily six figure household income...think PGA Tour demographics). These schools' Boards of Trustees read like a who's who of Fortune 500 Senior-most execs that bring connections and influence to the country's largest advertising budgets. I've heard a very similar approach had a large influence on Notre Dame getting their NBC deal many years ago, but I'm not sure if that is true.

Just scratching the service, here are a few schools and their board links to heavy advertising dollars.

Xavier-Procter Gamble, Eli Lilly, Macys, McDonald's, Fifth Third Bank, Kroger,

Georgetown - Levi Strauss, Cisco,

Providence College- Verizon, State Street, IBM

Butler- JPMorgan Chase, Taco Bell, KFC

St. Joes- 7-11, BlueCross, Comcast,

Marquette-SAB Miller, Kohler, E&Y, Advanced Auto Parts,

Pepperdine- Farmers Insurance, E-Harmony

Depaul- Kellogg, Neuberger Berman, BlueCross

Then you can either rotate or permanently host the conference tournament in Chicago, Madison Square Garden, or the Staples Center. Primetime baby! To quote the late, great Dave Gavitt: "‘We’re going to Madison Square Garden and it’s going to be the best basketball tournament in the country."

Whatever Georgetown and Xavier do regarding re-alignment, the rest of the Big East and the select A-10 schools will likely do. Xavier and Georgetown are both the "Godfather's" of their respective conferences. It's in the other schools' best interests to stay aligned with them.

I'm sure you can figure out a way to make the money work for media distribution platforms with potenitally the NBC group and Yahoo (the current deal for Big East bball teams pays them around $1mil per year, A-10 is closer $350K per school). These low contract figures for the schools suggest a huge opportunity with the new conference, both for the broadcast partners and the schools.

Can you picture Tues and Thurs 7:30pm ETand 10:00pm ET double headers of great college basketball and then a full slate of Saturday games across all time zones? Villanova at Georgtown at 7:30 and Butler at Gonzaga at 10pm. What about a nationwide televised/web broadcasted Conference Tournament with huge buzz in the major media markets? Let's make it happen, baby!