Profiling the Big East "Catholic" Conference's additions - NCAA history, attendance

Joe Robbins

Evaluating the quality of the hoops-only conference in terms of wins, NCAA Tournament appearances, and fan attendance.

To better get a sense of what the new basketball league could look like once the Big East basketball schools formally figure out their plan and separate, let's fire up some information from KenPom.com. Included are attendance figures for the possible Big East additions breaking off, and historical markers in the form of wins, NCAA appearances, Final Fours, and championships - what we grade the best of the best on.

The Big East loses four teams that are projected to receive NCAA Tournament bids, and also Rutgers. But if plans go according to rumor, the schools gain programs with rabid fanbases and solid histories.

Per-game attendance figures are for 2011-12, and reported to the NCAA; historical wins records are through 2011-12.

Historically:

Now
Historically
Basketball schools
Per-game attendance
KenPom Rank (12/13)
NCAA Tourn. Appearances
NCAA Final Fours
NCAA Champs
Overall NCAA wins
Win Rank
First season
Georgetown
11,283
29
28
5
1
1,520
32
1907
Marquette
15,138
40
30
3
1
1,467
48
1917
Providence
7,883
73
15
2
1,301
92
1921
Seton Hall
6,941
80
9
1
1,360
80
1904
St. John's
8,428
91
28
2
1,724
7
1908
Villanova
8,923
93
32
4
1
1,551
27
1921
DePaul
7,740
85
22
2
1,367
78
1924

Here it's a group of schools with at least 85 years of basketball experience. Seton Hall is the oldest program under the NCAA umbrella. Providence has the lowest number of wins, while Seton Hall has the fewest NCAA Tournament appearances (which is a surprise). Villanova leads in NCAA Tournament appearances, but Georgetown leads with 5 Final Fours. St. John's leads in overall wins with 1,724.

Right now, the Big East hoops schools are working towards better future, but the present doesn't project this group to have more than two NCAA Tournament teams. It could change in conference play very easily. History is important to this group, and history (and a lack of football) seems to be holding it together.

Here is what the Big East is looking to add:

Now
Historically
Possible additions
Per-game attendance
KenPom Rank (12/13)
NCAA Tourn. Appearances
NCAA Final Fours
NCAA Champs
Overall NCAA wins
Win Rank
First season
Butler
6,599
55
11
2
1,427
61
1897
Creighton
16,665
15
17
1,408
65
1912
Dayton
12,154
75
14
1
1,471
45
1904
George Mason
5,161
96
6
1
658
297
1967
Gonzaga
6,212
11
15
1,416
62
1908
Saint Louis
7,757
52
7
1,276
107
1916
St. Mary’s (CA)*
2,840
50
7
1,124
167
1910
VCU
7,622
17
11
1
762
270
1971
Xavier
10,155
81
23
1,306
90
1920
*For schools with smaller gyms, a small figure does not mean lack of interest.

DePaul would still be the youngest program in the league if all of the teams in this group were added.

Butler's recent Final Fours add luster to their 110+ year history, while Xavier has earned 23 NCAA Tournament appearances. Creighton, Xavier, and Dayton enjoy huge attendance in their home arenas. St. Mary's home court seats 3,500 and Gonzaga's seats 6,000, deflating their possible attendance numbers.

Creighton and Gonzaga would come in as teams riding a high of recent success, and are on track to win at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament. Both VCU and George Mason have had recent succerss, but are youthful programs like Central and South Florida (see below).

For comparison, here are the schools leaving the Big East Conference. There are a lot of wins, championships, and memories. And Rutgers.

Now
Historically
Departing schools
Per-game attendance
KenPom Rank (12/13)
NCAA Tourn. Appearances
NCAA Final Fours
NCAA Champs
Overall NCAA wins
Win Rank
First season
Syracuse
23,618
4
35
4
1
1,810
5
1901
Louisville
21,503
3
38
9
2
1,632
18
1912
Notre Dame
7,999
22
32
1
1,701
9
1898
Pittsburgh
8,801
7
23
1
1,465
49
1906
Rutgers
5,362
79
6
1
1,141
159
1907

Syracuse's win total is the fifth best of all current NCAA programs. And with 13 combined Final Fours, Louisville and Syracuse have been excellent programs, consistently appearing in the NCAA Tournament. And their attendance shows it. This season, both are elite teams, with Pittsburgh and Notre Dame not far behind.

And here is what the Big East basketball schools have chosen to depart from.

Now
Historically
All-Sports schools
Per-game attendance
KenPom Rank (12/13)
NCAA Tourn. Appearances
NCAA Final Fours
NCAA Champs
Overall NCAA wins
Win Rank
First season
Cincinnati
8,069
16
26
6
2
1,598
23
1902
Connecticut
12,640
53
31
4
3
1,549
28
1901
Houston*
3,788
212
19
5
1,117
171
1946
Memphis
16,234
33
24
3
1,384
71
1921
SMU*
2,013
101
10
1
1,177
144
1917
South Florida
3,849
149
3
541
326
1972
Temple
8,165
60
30
2
1,766
6
1895
Tulane
2,252
135
3
1,116
173
1906
UCF
5,723
84
4
664
294
1970
*For schools with smaller gyms, a lack of a figure does not mean lack of interest; however, Houston and SMU attendance capacity is between 8,000-9,000. UCF's home arena can fit 10,000.

Temple is the sixth winningest program of all time, and has earned 30 NCAA Tournament appearances along with 2 Final Fours in 107 years of basketball. Connecticut has even stronger recent history, with the Big East's most recent basketball championship (over Butler), and two others to reflect on. Cincinnati has two NCAA championships from 1961 and 1962, and 26 NCAA Tournament appearances. Memphis adds 24 tourney appearances and a strong current team.

South and Central Florida are new programs. Southern Methodist and Tulane have little basketball history. But Houston's mid-80s squads were a fearsome bunch, part of the 5 Final Fours the Cougars have played in and the 19 overall NCAA Tournament appearances.

Only Cincinnati and Memphis look to be on track for an NCAA bid. Much like the Big East's basketball-only schools, the other programs are in need of a conference play surge to reach the Big Dance.

Present numbers may not predict the future. There is growth in any path the Big East's basketball schools will take, and a need for those programs to improve their own brand by winning. It's what got St. Mary's, with 7 tournament appearances, to a point where an eastern league is looking their way. The same with Creighton or St. Mary's. Those programs built themselves up without concern of their conference affiliation.

Conference is still important; it affects a school's ability to gain an at-large bid and to attract fans to watch their basketball product.

With the loss of the four schools to the ACC, there are no good choices with respect to maintaining the strength of "Catholic Seven" basketball. There is no replacing history. But the schools are looking for a secure future, some exposure, and hopefully heated battles that will burn into fans' memories, as the old Syracuse/ Georgetown, St. John's/ UConn, or Seton Hall/ Rutgers games did.

More on conference realignment and St. John's future

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