It’s an open question as to how much Notre Dame basketball will benefit by moving to the ACC, but there’s little doubt that several other schools will come out on the short end of the deal. Both the Irish’s new conference and the Big East they’re leaving behind will have programs with reasons to regret ND’s decision.
One opponent who won’t be too happy to see the Irish arrive in their new home is the Clemson Tigers.
As coach Brad Brownell tries to build a consistent winner, his job gets a good deal tougher with the addition of a new conference rival, who will become a near-automatic L on Clemson’s league record over the next several years.
Herein, a closer look at the Tigers and five more teams that will wish Notre Dame had stayed put in the Big East.
No team in the ACC has more reason to complain about the league’s steady northward expansion than its southernmost school. The list of January and February road trips from Miami just keeps getting uglier, with South Bend being only the latest indignity.
It’s not the longest haul facing the Hurricanes (that would be Boston College) nor the one most likely to be snowed out (Syracuse, once the Orange join the league), but another 1,300-mile road trip to a cold-weather city is no picnic.
When the ‘Canes joined the ACC in 2004, their most distant opponent was Virginia, but by the time the Irish arrive, the journey to Notre Dame will be the fourth trip of 1,000-plus miles on Miami's league schedule.
The concept of natural geographic rivalries may seem a bit dated—especially with the Big East about to stretch from Providence to Houston—but there’s still something to be said for having an annual showdown with an opponent close enough for fans to make the trip.
Marquette’s best bet for establishing such a rivalry in the Big East had seemed to be the Fighting Irish, but no longer.
With ND off to the ACC, Marquette is left having to hope that DePaul’s floundering program can resuscitate itself, because there just aren’t any other options.
The conference’s next-closest program to Milwaukee will be the Cincinnati Bearcats, a seven-hour drive from the Golden Eagles’ home turf.
Heading into its third season under Brad Brownell, Clemson can safely be described as a program on the fringes of NCAA Tournament contention.
The Tigers had made four straight trips to March Madness before missing last year’s edition, but didn’t make it out of the Round of 64 in any of them.
The last thing a program in that position needs is to see its conference add a slew of stronger teams that will hamstring its chances of a winning league record, but that’s exactly what the ACC is doing.
The arrival of Syracuse, Pitt and now Notre Dame will push the Tigers far enough down the ACC food chain that they’ll need to improve dramatically to make a run at the Big Dance again anytime soon.
Just as Mick Cronin has rebuilt the Bearcats into a team capable of making some noise on the national scene, his own conference is about to leave him in the lurch.
The departure of four Big East basketball powers (West Virginia this year, Syracuse and Pitt in 2013 and Notre Dame in 2014) will leave Cincinnati with no room for error when it comes to making the NCAA Tournament, or getting a favorable seed.
Since the Big East added the Bearcats (and several other ex-Conference USA schools) in 2005, it’s been the country’s deepest conference, meaning that a .500 league record like the one UConn posted last season was still going to be enough to earn an at-large bid.
Now, the strength of the league is about to drop so dramatically that only the top three or four teams will be assured of NCAA Tournament spots, hardly the ideal situation for a rising program like Cincinnati’s.
Even before Notre Dame announced its move, Virginia Tech was having a disastrous offseason.
Since the firing of longtime coach Seth Greenberg, the Hokies have lost their top recruit, Montrezl Harrell (committed to Louisville instead), and their best player, Dorian Finney-Smith (transferred to Florida).
Now, a last-place team learns that yet another Big East powerhouse is arriving to make the ACC a tougher place to win.
Even the best Hokies teams have taken their lumps in conference play, and with Notre Dame in the mix, VT’s chances just got even worse.
As the current standard-bearer for the Big East’s non-football members, Georgetown has ample reason to lament anything that tends to destabilize the conference.
Although Notre Dame—never a member for football, either—doesn’t do as much damage with its departure as Pitt and Syracuse will, the loss of such a high-profile school to a rival major conference can only damage the Big East’s long-term health.
If the Big East can’t survive in its current form, the Hoyas and the other basketball-first members will be effectively locked out of joining any of the power conferences thanks to their lack of revenue-dominating football programs.
Having Notre Dame around, even in the absence of its mighty football reputation, might have helped the Big East avoid that fate, but now the league's chances for long-term survival become that much slimmer.