Marquette Wire

GOODS: Coast-to-coast BIG EAST wouldn’t work

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(Photo courtesy of the Wikepedia Commons)

(Photo courtesy of the Wikepedia Commons)

(Photo courtesy of the Wikepedia Commons)

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Before the Catholic 7 split from the former BIG EAST, the conference flirted with a coast-to-coast expansion to save itself after losing dominant programs to the ACC. The conference tried adding Boise State and San Diego State, but neither came to fruition.

Late last month, William Rhoden of the New York Times suggested the conference try again. The idea centers around Gonzaga, located in Spokane, Washington. Rhoden suggests fellow West Coast Conference member St. Mary’s, in Moraga, California, as another addition that makes sense to help boost the conference’s men’s basketball reputation.

The obvious criticism is the priciness of expansion. Teams would have to travel cross country for conference games.

As Rhoden explains, the conference would split into two divisions, West and East. If the BIG EAST only added the two teams mentioned – Gonzaga and St. Mary’s – the divisions would likely be Villanova, Georgetown, Xavier, Seton Hall and St. John’s in the East and Marquette, Butler, Creighton, DePaul, Gonzaga and St. Mary’s in the West. The two extremes in the West Division, Butler and St. Mary’s, are about 2,300 miles apart.

Traveling to Washington and California once a year each wouldn’t be an enormous issue, but Gonzaga and St. Mary’s would have to travel at least half way across the country for every game. The two schools would likely want the conference to add more West Coast programs.

This ties into the biggest issue of a coast-to-coast expansion — there aren’t enough West Coast programs outside of power conferences to enhance the BIG EAST brand. BYU would be the most fitting choice. Beyond that, the conference would have schools like Loyola Marymount, San Francisco, UC Irvine or Denver to choose from.

Even St. Mary’s is a stretch. St. Mary’s made the tournament five times since 2000, but hasn’t been a single-digit seed since 1989.

All these schools have fine programs but are clear mid-majors, only prolonging the idea that the BIG EAST isn’t a major conference.

It seems any idea of western expansion is just a way to work Gonzaga into the conference. The Bulldogs fit the BIG EAST perfectly. It’s a small, Catholic school where basketball is an important cultural factor. Gonzaga head coach Mark Few built a successful program with national recognition.

Unfortunately, Spokane is just too far away to fit the conference’s footprint, and the BIG EAST shouldn’t dilute itself to make it happen. The conference doesn’t need to add teams, and with programs similar to Gonzaga like Wichita State, Dayton and St. Louis within closer proximity, it’s better to leave the conference alone or look elsewhere.

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