Xavier thinks it can measure up in Big East

The Associated Press Published:

CINCINNATI (AP) -- The city will still have a team in the Big East next season, but it won’t be the big public school.

Xavier has accepted an invitation to join a reconfigured Big East next season, a step up for a small Jesuit school that developed a nationally prominent basketball program during its stay in the Atlantic 10. Xavier, Butler and Creighton will join the 10-team league next school year.

"It makes perfect sense," basketball coach Chris Mack said. "It will be a challenge, but it's a challenge I think our kids are up to."

The Big East formally announced its alignment on Wednesday in New York. Xavier, which has played in the A-10 since 1995, quickly jumped at the invitation to become part of a league with other traditional basketball schools.

Georgetown, St. John's, Providence, Seton Hall, Villanova, Marquette and DePaul decided to leave the Big East, taking the name with them. They invited the three others to join them.

"It’s the kind of thing that constitutes a huge step forward for the entire university," said the Rev. Michael Graham, Xavier’s president. "My board chair basically said unless there’s a really good reason not to do this, do it.

"I have no doubt it’s going to make recruiting players to Xavier easier: 'Oh, by the way, you're at Madison Square Garden every spring. You’ll get road games at Georgetown.' Name them all."

The Musketeers spent the previous 16 years in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference before moving into the A-10, where they developed into one of the nation’s top basketball programs. They won at least a share of the regular season championship five straight seasons. And they were one of only eight teams to make the NCAA tournament seven straight seasons, a streak that was snapped this year.

Xavier has reached the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament, but never a Final Four.

"I’m sure that we’re going to have an opportunity to recruit a kid that’s a step quicker, a little bit deadlier (at shooting) than we had before," Graham said. "That’s going to make, obviously, a difference in the program.

"We’ve done very well for the last several years by any metric, so this is going to allow us to take what we want to take -- which is our next step forward."

The schools left in what was the Big East -- including crosstown rival Cincinnati -- have yet to develop a name for their new league.

Xavier’s league switch is one of the final acts for Mike Bobinski, who leaves as athletics director to take the same position at Georgia Tech at the end of the month.

"This is not about me in any way, shape or form," Bobinski said. "This is the next evolution of Xavier University. I was just fortunate to be the right guy in the right place at the right time."

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AP Sports Writer Rachel Cohen in New York and freelance writer Mark Schmetzer in Cincinnati contributed to this report.