Creighton Joins the New Big East, Say Goodbye Mid-Major Fans

Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

Creighton is making its move to the big time with the announcement that the team will join the Big East next season. Here are three immediate reactions

They were in, then they weren't in, then they were in, but only in two year's time.

Now they are IN, all official-like and stuff:

"The first task was to figure out who was going to join us," said Providence College president Rev. Brian Shanley during the unveiling ceremony. "You can't be the Big East with seven schools. We needed to expand."

Creighton was officially announced as one of the 10 members of the new Big East conference Wednesday, joining the group previously known as the Catholic 7, plus Butler and Xavier from the Atlantic 10 conference. The announcement puts to bed all of the rumors that had been swirling about membership. The door does remain open for another two teams to join the league, possibly the other two rumored candidates: Dayton and Saint Louis.

This is a testament to the stability of the Creighton program over the last decade. The Jays have consistently been a winner in the Missouri Valley (even if the regular season title has eluded them), and they have had success in reaching the NCAA Tournament.

This year marks the eighth time that Creighton will have made the Big Dance since 1999, an impressive record for a team from a league that struggles to get more than a single entrant. Three of those trips included victories.

If I were to think about initial reactions to this, here is where I would stand on the whole thing:

1. This is a temporary bump in the road for the Missouri Valley Conference: No conference other than the Ivy League has been as immune to this shuffling and reorganization to this point as the Missouri Valley. The last defector from the Valley was Tulsa, and if you can remember that, I salute you, since it happened in 1996 and most of the kids at Creighton now were in diapers back then.

But the Missouri Valley is stable, and has a great competitive balance, as evidenced by how many upsets there were in the league this season. It may have cost the Valley three bids to the Tournament, but it also shows how good every team is in this league, not just the few at the top.

Does the league need to defend itself immediately from further defections? Doubtful. I can't see another team leaving the Valley soon. This was a unique opportunity presented by the culture of Creighton and its basketball talent. And I don't think that the Valley needs to rush to expand. It needs to ultimately be smart about the school or schools it invites and not just grab at the first shiny object that comes its way.

The Valley will be fine, and will continue to receive multiple invites to the NCAA Tournament, as long as it stays true to who it is.

2. Maybe this is the impetus for Doug McDermott to stay for his senior year: OK, this might be a stretch, but currently McDermott is projected to be a second round pick in the NBA draft. That comes with no guaranteed contract, no guaranteed money, zip, nada. That is not to say that Doug McDermott can't suceed in the NBA. The kid has talent. He is just a little raw and a little hard to place at a position in the League where he will be able to succeed best.

There are all kinds of questions that playing in this league, against the type of talent at Georgetown, or Providence, or Marquette, will help to answer about McDermott. He has the opportunity to really prove his talent on the big stage, in a bigger conference. He won't need the singular opportunities that he sometimes gets now to show it.

And it might actually help him improve in the long run. If he has to go against the kind of talent he will see in this new league more often, he will be better suited to play in the League.

It isn't my place to tell a kid to stay or go, but this looks like a winning proposition for the Bluejay star.

3. Creighton will still need to step up its game: There is a big difference between the teams in the Missouri Valley and the teams that will be in the new Big East. There are not teams on the level of Georgetown, or Marquette, or Villanova, at least not consistently. There are also not teams on the level that Butler or Xavier has played at, again not consistently.

The closest rivals to the Jays are Wichita State and Northern Iowa, and everyone else is a step down from there. It is one thing to be among the top three in the conference. Creighton will now be somewhere in the middle to begin its run in the new league, not to mention traveling a lot further during the conference season.

That travel seemed to take its toll on the Jays this year, especially since they didn't take the time off that other teams did during the slow months. If it affects them in the Valley, it will certainly affect them when they move to the Big East.

But the recruiting will need to step up, and the team won't be able to just rely on transfer from other big programs to fill its needs. It will need to start landing top 100 recruits year after year if it wants to stay competitive with the Hoyas and Wildcats, and probably even DePaul, yes, DePaul.

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Most important I think is that I really hope that Creighton succeeds in its move. This is on par with the performance that we have seen this year with Butler and Virginia Commonwealth moving to the Atlantic 10 and being immediate major players in that league. Butler is making the same major step here -- hard to believe that the Bulldogs were only in the Horizon last year, and didn't come close to winning it.

This will serve to validate the top of mid-major basketball across the country. It has already gotten a boost from Butler and VCU. It is no longer a shock when a team outside of the major conferences is able to battle its way to the Final Four. We talk about it like it is a novelty, but it is actually somewhat commonplace now.

If Creighton makes it, more attention will start to be paid to teams at this level, and that will be a good day for college basketball fans in general.

Goodbye, and good luck, Creighton. We are counting on you.

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