Surprising bit from a recent John Feinstein report in the Washington Post about plans for the new college basketball conference being formed by the seven Catholic schools exiting the crumbling Big East: Siena is in the conversation for the new conference. From the article:
The conference leaders want six eastern and six western -- really, midwestern -- schools. The eastern division of the league will consist of Georgetown, St. John's, Seton Hall, Villanova, Providence and either Richmond (also a non-Catholic school) or Siena -- a late entry but a potentially appealing one because it's a Catholic school that (more importantly) plays in a 15,500-seat arena in Albany, N.Y.
Being picked for your gym probably isn't the reason most schools hope they'll draw suitors -- though, hey, if you got it, flaunt it. Also: it's nice to be considered.
But Siena's athletic director has already poured cold water on the speculation. [TU]
And that's not surprising, because the move would be a stretch, for a few reasons...
+ The first and foremost reason, as it with most big-time college sports: money. A move to the Big Catholic (or whatever it ends being called) would probably mean a big jump in the amount of money Siena would have to spend on athletics. Siena spent about $12 million on all its teams during the last reported year -- about $2.3 million of that on basketball. Here's how its spending compares with the other schools that are said to be sure bets for the new conference:
That said, a look at the some of the schools coming from the A-10 -- such as Xavier and St. Louis -- points to the move maybe not being a totally crazy idea... if the basketball team ends up generating more money in the process.
But it's not just for basketball -- the travel costs of all the other school's teams would probably also increase because the geographic footprint of the new conference would be much larger than Siena's current conference, the MAAC. (Travel costs are a real consideration -- Feinstein reports Creighton, which has a strong basketball program, isn't being considered because it would stretch the conference too far.)
+ Second: this would be a big jump up in competition. The Big East and Atlantic 10 -- the conferences from which the bulk of the teams will be drawn -- are ranked #3 and #7 in conference RPI (basically a collective rating of the teams in a conference based on their records and strength of schedule.) Siena's conference is #16 this year. And Siena's been having a rough go of it the last few seasons (including 6-21 this year, ouch). And though there's no reason the Saints can't get things back together eventually -- it's one thing to pull some upsets in the NCAA tournament, it's another to compete year in and year out in a conference stacked with formidable opponents.
But it's a fun idea to think about. This new conference is shaping up to be a very good basketball league. It'd be great to see teams such as Georgetown and Butler come through here.
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