Big East Basketball's 'Shot to Nothing' Remains the Wise Play

Big East Basketball's 'Shot to Nothing' Remains the Wise Play

It's called the Holy War, but as long as we're getting religious, maybe it's time to talk about Reconciliation.

They're small. They're private. They're Catholic. They're known primarily for the success of their basketball programs.

And they have absolutely no influence whatsoever in modern college
athletics. That's what happens when you don't have an FBS football team.

Other universities are flying all around — figuratively and literally,
given some upcoming travel schedules — to position themselves for
football's upcoming rounds of TV-generated payouts, while schools
without bargaining chips are left to watch it all unfold.

The chasm between the Jesuits and the Augustinians was once
unbridgeable, at least in basketball-terms. But now, considering how the
college landscape has changed, and given the declining number of priests in
this country, is it time to combine forces?

Lo and behold, with Villanova set to host St. Joe's on Tuesday night,
Tuesday morning brought with it the news of a meeting between the seven
Big East-only basketball schools and conference commissioner Mike
Aresco. The topic of those schools exploring alternative
athletic opportunities was broached.

Of the most note in the reaction pieces filed is Dana O'Neil's on ESPN,
in which she pays the programs a number of backhanded compliments for
finally taking action.

But with the exception of Villanova's decision to pass on FBS football
when it had the opportunity to fill a need in the Big East, hasn't a
"check" been the basketball  schools' only play? They won't raise or
even re-raise. They'll just sit there and check,
check, check
at the poker table all night, attempting to bluff a mad
Russian into giving them his entire pot. They'll check, with the hopes
that they'll receive a sizable check of a different kind later on.

Other than sitting and waiting, what alternative do they have? A
basketball super-conference, of course. Villanova and its
basketball-only counterparts don't have today's most valuable commodity:
football. Instead, they'll make do with what they have. They
have basketball, and they're going to attempt to give you the best
basketball possible.

It's the ultimate "zig while everyone else is zagging" move. And if you're
wondering what it might look like,'s Jonathan Tannenwald on
Tuesday published these proposals for an 18-to-20-team basketball
conference. Each list is, more or less, the Big East's
basketball-only schools combined with the Atlantic 10. Temple, UMass
and Creighton are all mentioned at points as other potential additions.

It's an idea I rather like, as it's one I've been proposing in private over the past month to anyone who will listen.

Of course, it's a gamble. Zigging while everyone else is zagging only
works when other people appreciate the value of your zig. Rephrased:
there has to be a lucrative enough market for basketball to make a new
conference, or an expanded Atlantic 10, attractive.

As O'Neil points out, recent reports indicate the basketball-only
schools would stand to make anywhere from $1.1 to 1.4 million per year
in a new Big East media deal worth anywhere from $60 to 80 million. By
contrast, the A-10's current television deal nets
each of its programs about $350,000.

The assumption inherent in any argument proposing an A-10/Catholic
basketball merger is that the addition of names like Georgetown and St.
John's and the alike would bring added value, that they would make more

Just how much more money is the question. Because even if such a
conference has the potential prove better athletically than the Big
East, it might also prove worse off financially. As popular as the NCAA tournament is, college basketball's regular season just isn't a money-maker, not compared to football.

And that's the point I return to. Until the basketball-only schools — assuming they really feel the need to stay together, which is a whole other discussion — can be
assured they stand a greater financial benefit without the Big East than
with it, they have to continue to check.

It might not be the most exciting move, but considering their unenviable position, it's still the smartest.

Related: Until It Secures a TV Deal, Reserve Your Judgment on the New Big East [T7L]

Gunn's Bullet Points: Flags could fly in secondary for Eagles-Cowboys

Gunn's Bullet Points: Flags could fly in secondary for Eagles-Cowboys

Some notes and keys ahead of Sunday night's Eagles-Cowboys game:

• Since throwing for 301 yards against Pittsburgh in Week 3, Carson Wentz's aerial numbers have declined — 238 yards in Detroit, 179 in Washington and 138 vs. Minnesota.

• Even though he missed two games with an injury, I still can't understand how Zach Ertz has been targeted only 16 times in four games this season.

• Dallas WR Cole Beasley is arguably the best slot receiver in the game right now. Last November against the Eagles, he had nine receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns. With the Eagles' best slot cornerback, Ron Brooks, out for the year with a ruptured quad tendon, Malcolm Jenkins will have his hands full trying to keep up with Beasley in the slot.

• Eagles and Cowboys defensive backs beware: Jerome Boger's crew is officiating this game. This season, Boger's crew has called 36 penalties for defensive pass interference, illegal contact or defensive holding.

• The Eagles' 20 sacks ties them for third-most in the league. Dallas has allowed just nine, second-fewest in the NFL.

• Does Doug Pederson still have faith in RB Ryan Mathews late in games? Mathews has fumbled with less than five minutes left in two of the last three games. The head coach says he has not lost faith in Mathews, and Mathews says he'll stop fighting for more yards late in games. Time will tell.

After 2 fumbles, Mathews says he must fight urge to fight for more yards

After 2 fumbles, Mathews says he must fight urge to fight for more yards

Doug Pederson said this week he’s so concerned about Ryan Mathews’ late-game fumbling problem that he’ll consider using a different running back in crucial late-game situations (see story).

If Mathews is concerned about it, he’s not letting on.

“I don’t worry about stuff like that,” he said at his locker on Thursday. “Worrying about stuff like that just causes more stress.

“I can’t control any of that. The only thing I can control is trying to give him 100 percent every time I touch the ball and trying to get better.”

Mathews likely cost the Eagles a win over the Lions with his late fumble in Detroit three weeks ago. Last week, he lost another fumble in the final minutes of the Eagles’ win over the Vikings.

He’s the first back with two fumbles in the final five minutes of two games in the same season since Ahmad Bradshaw of the Giants in 2010.

He has single-handedly accounted for two of the three fumbles by NFL running backs in the last five minutes of games this year.

Pederson on Wednesday said, “By no means am I down on Ryan,” but also said he would consider using Wendell Smallwood or Darren Sproles in late-game situations moving forward.

Mathews is averaging 3.9 yards per carry on a team-high 11 carries per game.

He said Thursday he has to learn not to fight for extra yards when the situation calls mainly for ball protection.

“You can’t fight for more yards, you’ve just got to go down,” he said. “Don’t put the ball on the ground.

“There’s no secret cure or anything like that. You’ve just got to get what you can get and get down. You can’t really fight for more yards like that.”

Mathews said it’s difficult for him to ramp down his natural aggressiveness in situations that call for him to be more conservative and protect the ball instead of trying to fight for extra yards.

“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “I’m not the one to really shy away from not going down on first contact. But situations like that, you’ve just got to be more aware.”

Sproles (4.6 average on 31 carries), Smallwood (4.1 average on 28 carries) and Kenjon Barner (5.8 average on 16 carries) all have higher rushing averages than Mathews.

Offensive coordinator Frank Reich said he’s not concerned about Mathews and said his confidence in the 29-year-old former Pro Bowler hasn’t waned.

“I love our guys,” Reich said. “I wouldn't trade our guys for anybody. We use a word around here a lot, and I know sometimes it gets thrown around, but it's family.

“You know, not every family's perfect, and we all make mistakes, but when we put guys out on the field (we’re confident in them). I can't play like that. I can't coach like that. You've got to have confidence.

“Now with coaches, it’s a business and coaches make decisions based on things. And when those decisions get made, they get made. But when a guy is in the game, we have to play with confidence and we have to coach with confidence and I don't see any other way to do it.”