If conference realignment has had you confused and in a tizzy the last few years, just wait until next season. It's mostly over; now we just have to learn who is where.
A quick rundown of some of the big basketball-related changes:
- Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame are off to the ACC.
- Louisville gets to play one season in something called the American Athletic Conference with the likes of Houston and Central Florida before also jetting to the ACC.
- Creighton, a school in Omaha (still in the middle of the country last I checked), and Butler (also very much in the Midwest), now play in what is the Big East, only it's not that Big East that you know but a new one.
- Memphis and Temple are in the league that (as of now) they're calling the American Athletic Conference, which includes Connecticut and Cincinnati.
It’s like someone decided to mix up the alphabet without any rhyme or reason, mostly just so we could relearn it and get angry in process.
(A big thank you to Chris Dobbertean over at Blogging the Bracket for putting together this handy list of the changes. It’s actually something you can follow.)
The question that was rarely (if ever) asked during all this mess: Do any of these changes make sense for basketball?
The answer is frustrating for basketball fans. No. The motivating factors behind conference realignment have been well-documented: football and money.
Geography, rivalries and history, the realigners simply don’t care about you.
Syracuse and Georgetown, that rivalry was fun, but there’s no need for it. The Border War between Kansas and Missouri, a lot of hatred there, but let’s leave those battles to the message boards. The backyard brawl between Pittsburgh and West Virginia, it made sense for those two to be in the same conference, but not as much sense as West Virginia traveling to Lubbock, Texas every year!
I live in Kansas City, and when Missouri left for the SEC, I had a lot of MU fans tell me that they were happy about the move. It made sense for their school. They needed stability.
I can understand the fear that realignment caused. If Missouri had been patient, the school would have been just fine in the Big 12. Some of those fans have even admitted to me since that they wish they would have stuck around. But I understand what felt like an impending implosion of the Big 12—thanks Dan Beebe—motivated MU to be proactive.
Proactive is a nice way of explaining the motivation for athletic directors and conference commissioners. At least it sounds a lot better than “money grab.”
Was conference realignment a good thing for college basketball?
What has been refreshing in the last year is that some moves are finally being made because of basketball; anything the Atlantic 10 does, for instance.
The new Big East is a basketball league and every acquisition was made because of basketball. But it would not have been necessary for those schools to join forces if the old Big East had been able to stick together.
And that’s what the basketball coaches in that league would have preferred. Ask Jim Boeheim, whose team ended up just fine in the ACC, what he thinks of all the movement, and his answer would still probably be the same as it was last November (via Syracuse.com):
Maybe they should just have a draft. Each conference just draft teams because it doesn’t make any sense who they’re getting anyway. So they might as well just have a draft, except then they’d have to make a decision and they probably wouldn’t be able to figure that out.
… It’s like I said, If these guys were running the United States in Colonial times, Brazil and Argentina would be states. Because they have something we need.
It’s hopefully finished now, as Dennis Dodd from CBSSports.com explained in this piece last month. The ACC joined the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 by its members agreeing to a grant of rights, meaning you leave now and you cost yourself a lot of money. There might be a few moves here and there, but for the power conferences, it should be at a standstill.
Everyone’s needs have finally been met. Everyone is going to get paid. But everyone was going to eventually get paid whether teams realigned.
Was speeding up the process really worth it? Not for college basketball.