The Catholic seven — aka the “Big Priest” — would be dropping a set of schools with low Sagarin power ratings by breaking out and forming a new conference, according to a column by Nate Silver in the New York Times.Here’s a portion of Silver’s column:Here’s how the current Big East Sagarin ratings look: Louisville – 94.10 Syracuse – 93.87 Pittsburgh – 89.49 Cincinnati – 87.78 Notre Dame – 85.88 Marquette – 85.02 Georgetown – 84.55 UConn – 82.14 St. John’s – 78.60 Seton Hall – 78.44 Rutgers – 77.58 Villanova – 77.48 South Florida – 77.39 Providence – 76.99 DePaul – 76.79 Despite the lower Sagarin ratings by the “Big Priest” schools, they are still higher than three of the five current Conference USA schools set to join the Big East in 2013 or 2014. Memphis and Central Florida are the exceptions. Memphis – 83.14 Central Florida – 79.12 SMU – 73.70 Tulane – 73.09 Houston – 71.90 Finally, Temple, which also joins the Big East in 2013, has a current Sagarin rating of 83.77, which would place it eighth in the current Big East and places ahead of all five C-USA teams mentioned above.
Over the past 10 years, the average rating for the six major college basketball conferences has been 80 points or higher, ranging from 80.65 points (the Pac-12) to 83.11 (the Atlantic Coast Conference.). In contrast, no midmajor conference has had a rating higher than 77.96. Thus, the seven breakaway schools, with an average rating of 81.06, sit right at the precipice of being a major or a midmajor conference depending on which teams might join them in the league. The basketball-only schools would be abandoning the University of Connecticut, which has one of the strongest basketball programs in the country. They would also be leaving behind Memphis, which had been set to join the Big East next year. But most of the other new additions to the Big East, like Tulane and Southern Methodist, have had weak college basketball teams. Even the strongest college basketball conferences can have one or two members that are usually mediocre in men’s basketball and qualify for the N.C.A.A. tournament only once in a great while. However, the Big East would have five such programs — Tulane, S.M.U, Houston, Central Florida and South Florida — all of which have been rated at 75.22 or lower.It is also worth pointing out that in the current Big East, four of the top five schools in the Sagarin ratings for 2012-13 are leaving for the ACC (No. 1. Louisville, No. 2 Syracuse, No. 3 Pittsburgh and No. 5 Notre Dame). Meantime, five of the bottom seven teams in the Sagarin ratings are Big Priest schools (No. 9 St. John’s, No. 10 Seton Hall, No. 12 Villanova, No. 14 Providence and No. 15 DePaul).