Expansion is the buzzword of the week in college sports, particularly in the Pac-10, where a sub-par basketball season has diverted national attention elsewhere—until now.
Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott has made no bones about the need to modernize the conference, and that means expansion. Thus, the public's eye has turned squarely on BYU, Utah, and Colorado as the most feasible and attractive candidates for the potential Pac-12.
Just like any other conference expansion or realignment, this would be a football-centric move. However, there are plenty of basketball ramifications should the Cougars, Utes, and/or Buffaloes receive an invitation.
For BYU basketball, a future in the Pac-10/12 should be very appealing.
First off, BYU would go from being a big fish in a small pond to a reasonably-sized fish in a reasonably-sized pond. In other words, every other Mountain West Conference team has BYU in its sights, no matter the Cougars' record, since it is the flagship program of the conference.
When a team like BYU consistently gets every other team's best shot, it can wear that team out. Look at USC football as a prime example: every other Pac-10 team saves its best game for the Trojans, thanks to the sense of pride that comes from taking down the big guy.
As a result, USC loses at least one game each year to an inferior Pac-10 team (or more, in this season's case). You can only take so many of your opponents' best punches before you get knocked out.
The same can be said of BYU in nearly every sport, but particularly in basketball and football. If one of the "little guys" in the MWC can knock off the Cougars, it's a significant win for that program.
The Pac-10 already has such programs in UCLA and Arizona. Both are clearly rebuilding this year, but a win against either program by an underdog is still seen as a major milestone. Just look at Cal State Fullerton, who finally bested the Bruins, and BYU, who ran the Wildcats out of their own gym behind Jimmer Fredette's 49 points.
It can be argued that the perception of BYU basketball compared to some other Pac-10 programs is that the Cougars are weaker, or at least less pretigious. BYU can use this to its advantage and beat teams that many expect them to lose to.
In addition, like any team in a Big Six conference, BYU could afford a few extra slip-ups and still have a reasonable shot at the NCAA tournament. Of course, if the tournament expands to 96 teams, this point is moot. For now, at least, it is a plus.
Obviously, recruiting and attendance would receive a shot in the arm. The chance to play for a Pac-10 program would be a great pull for recruits from Utah, Idaho, and elsewhere who choose programs like Utah State over BYU and Utah.
BYU has almost always been at or near the top of attendance in the MWC, and this trend would certainly continue with regular visits from UCLA, Arizona, Washington, and the like.
There are plenty of other reasons why BYU should jump at the chance, should it come to pass. Cougar Nation ought to hope that Tom Holmoe and Cecil Samuelson feel the same way.