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Butler basketball fans will want to pay particular attention on Saturday if both the Bulldogs, as well as Marquette, advance in their initial NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament games on Thursday.
If both teams win on Thursday, they will face each other for the second time this season. And according to multiple reports, the two programs will be doing so – at least – annually for the foreseeable future.
The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the new Big East (otherwise known as the Catholic 7), will announce the addition of Butler, Xavier and Creighton as members of the 10-team league on Wednesday at a news conference in New York.
The move completes a stunning ascent for Butler University over the past 10 months.
Last spring, the Bulldogs were competing in the Horizon League against the likes of Youngstown State and Green Bay. On Wednesday, they'll begin preparation for competing against storied programs such as Georgetown, Marquette, St. John's, Villanova and others.
“I'm not so sure this isn't one of the great Butler stories,” Bulldog coach Brad Stevens said recently in contemplating the success achieved this year. “Not only have (the players) had a great season, they've done it against the hardest schedule that we've ever played.”
Get used to it, coach.
Historically, the institutions within the new Big East (the Catholic 7 retained the name of the conference recently in which those schools had announced their departure last fall) have been stronger in men's basketball and more nationally prominent than those of the Atlantic 10 Conference (Butler joined the A-10 last summer). However, that has not been the case overall this past season.
“When we signed up for the A-10,” Stevens explained, “we knew that it was going to be a monster.”
The A-10 this past season has had 10 programs rated in the top 100 nationally according to their RPI (ratings percentage index). Conversely, just eight of the programs reportedly to be included in the new Big East have been rated that highly this season.
The Tribune is reporting that the news conference will also unveil details on the television rights deal with FOX Sports and a post-season tournament to be played at Madison Square Garden.
Fox Sports has already announced the launch of a new national sports television network, Fox Sports 1, for this summer and recently, ESPN.com reported that the expected new Fox Sports TV contract with the new Big East is reportedly worth $3 million a year per team.
That is a significant jump for Butler and Xavier, who each were projected to receive just $350,000 annually from a new TV rights deal with the Atlantic 10 for next season.
The new 10-team league is reportedly going to play an 18-game round-robin schedule beginning with the 2013-14 season.
Along with Georgetown, Marquette, St. John's, Villanova and Marquette, the three new affiliates will compete with Providence, Seton Hall and DePaul, as well.