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BREAKING: Catholic 7 Leaving Big East Conference

There it goes.

SCOOP: The seven Catholic schools in the Big East – Georgetown, Villanova, St. John's, Providence, Marquette, DePaul and Seton Hall – released a statement on Saturday declaring their intention to leave the conference.

SIGNIFICANCE: The latest twist in conference realignment could cripple the Big East beyond repair, especially now that UConn and Cincinnati are expected to pursue the creation of a new conference that would include at least six current or future members of the Big East. With the Catholic 7 looking for teams to form a new conference, the Atlantic 10 could be in trouble too.

STORY: The inevitable announcement from the seven Catholic schools in the Big East finally came on Saturday afternoon. They are leaving the conference, after a unanimous 7-0 vote, in an attempt to build a conference that puts emphasis on basketball. The presidents of the seven schools released the following statement:

"Earlier today we voted unanimously to pursue an orderly evolution to a foundation of basketball schools that honors the history and tradition on which the Big East was established. Under the current context of conference realignment, we believe pursuing a new basketball framework that builds on this tradition of excellence and competition is the best way forward."

According to SNY's Adam Zagoria, these schools are expected to begin pursuing basketball schools to form a new conference. According to Zagoria, the targets could be the powers of the Atlantic 10 – Xavier, Butler, Dayton, St. Joseph's and VCU. St. Louis (A10), Creighton (Missouri Valley), Gonzaga (WCC) and St. Mary's (WCC) could also be targeted.

The Big East Conference appears to be dead in the water. With the Catholic schools officially declaring their future, UConn and Cincinnati may now push even harder to find a new home. As reported yesterday, the two schools are looking to create a new conference that would include South Florida, Memphis, Temple, Boise State, San Diego State, New Mexico, UNLV and either BYU or Central Florida.