What If College Basketball Ruled the College Sports World?
Hint: If you don't know the name of the man holding the net, this article is not for you.
Hello, college basketball fans!
While the Big Ten and Pac-10 are pursuing new teams, the team that won the national championship in 2008 (two years ago)? Not wanted.
Apparently the Big Ten would rather have Rutgers than two schools from the same conference that have won national championships this millennium (Syracuse and Connecticut).
If I told you that Duke should join the SEC, you would laugh at me.
And don't even talk to me about a Butler, Gonzaga, or heck, even a Villanova or Georgetown.
Yep, I know that college football owns the sports landscape, and it doesn't matter that Nebraska is ranked 38th in states according to population and contains no major metropolitan areas—they got football. Or had football. They haven't won a Big 12 championship this decade (heck, Illinois won a Big Ten title since then!) and have played in just four January 1st bowls since 2000.
So let's imagine that the world of college sports was run by college basketball and not college football (you know, a sport in which they actually have a real national championship).
In this world:
Rutgers is dead weight. They haven't won an NCAA game since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
Nebraska is dead weight. They haven't won an NCAA game since 1985. Change that—they've never won.
Conferences would be fighting over schools like Kentucky, Duke, Syracuse, and Kansas rather than feeding them to the mid-majors.
So what I did was find the 64 best teams in college basketball based upon the greatest number of NCAA tournament wins since 1985. Well, No. 65 and No. 66 tied with No. 64. So to cut it to 64 teams, the tiebreaker is most tournament appearances. So the two on the list with the fewest tournament appearances were dropped. The unfortunate two are Oregon and St. Joseph's. The rule is your team had to win a minimum of seven NCAA tournament games in 26 seasons. If you can't come up with seven wins, then maybe your school doesn't belong in big time college basketball.
Here's the list.
30 or more wins: Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, Connecticut, Michigan State, Arizona, Syracuse, UCLA, Louisville, Georgetown
25-29 wins: Oklahoma, Maryland, Indiana, Florida, Arkansas, Texas, Michigan, Illinois, Memphis
20-24 wins: Villanova, Purdue, UNLV, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, Temple, Ohio State, Cincinnati
15-19 wins: Xavier, Utah, Alabama, Stanford / Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Missouri, LSU, Wake Forest, Gonzaga, Seton Hall, St. John's (The line between Stanford and Pitt is that Stanford is the dividing line for the top 32, as Alabama and Stanford have 18 wins and Pitt and Wisconsin have 17.)
10-14 wins: West Virginia, NC State, Iowa, Boston College, Auburn, Tennessee, Iowa State, Virginia, Tulsa, Butler, Massachusetts, Minnesota
7-9 wins: Mississippi State, Washington, Notre Dame, Marquette, Vanderbilt, W. Kentucky, Kansas State, California, DePaul, USC, Florida State, Providence, (Oregon, St. Joseph's)
Big East (14): Connecticut, Syracuse, Louisville, Georgetown, Villanova, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Seton Hall, St. John's, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Marquette, DePaul, Providence
ACC (9): Duke, North Carolina, Maryland, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, NC State, Boston College, Virginia, Florida State
Big Ten (9): Michigan State, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Purdue, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota
SEC (9): Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt
Big 12 (7): Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Iowa State, Kansas State
Pac-10 (6): Arizona, UCLA, Stanford, Washington, California, USC
A-10 (3): Temple, Xavier, Massachusetts
Others (5): Memphis, UNLV, Utah, Gonzaga, Tulsa, Butler, W. Kentucky
So the basketball superconferences using this list:
ACC East: Massachusetts, Boston College, Connecticut, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's, Villanova, Temple
ACC West: Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Xavier
Big Ten East: Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame, Illinois, Wisconsin
Big Ten West: Butler, W. Kentucky, DePaul, Marquette, Minnesota, Iowa, Iowa State, Missouri
(Sure, Butler and W. Kentucky are more East than Illinois and Wisconsin, but I like the idea of my Illini with most of the rest of the old Big Ten.)
SEC East: North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest, NC State, Georgia Tech, Florida, Florida State, Kentucky, Louisville (That's right—UNC, Duke, and Kentucky in one conference!)
SEC West: Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Memphis, Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State, Arkansas, LSU
Pac-10 Southwest: Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Tulsa, Utah
Pac-10 Pacific: UCLA, USC, Stanford, Berkeley, Arizona, Washington, Gonzaga, UNLV
Now 64 teams is a pretty big list, and some mediocre basketball schools made the list. So, let's get more selective:
Let's do the 32 and come up with conferences with only the top 32 (up to Stanford and Alabama—18 wins) teams.
ACC/Big East: Duke, North Carolina, Connecticut, Syracuse, Georgetown, Maryland, Villanova, Temple
Big Ten: Michigan State, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Purdue, Ohio State, Cincinnati, Xavier
SEC: Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Florida, Arkansas, Memphis, Georgia Tech, Alabama
Pac-10: Arizona, UCLA, Oklahoma, Texas, UNLV, Oklahoma State, Utah, Stanford
Maybe we can take the next 32 and create second or "B" divisions in each conference.
Let's try three conferences of 12 (36 total) since 12 IMHO is the ideal number for a conference.
There are three teams ranked tied for 35th with 16 wins each (LSU, Missouri, and Wake Forest—well, Missouri made 16 appearances, and LSU and Wake Forest made 14 each. LSU made two Final Fours, and Wake Forest made none. So Wake Forest is the odd team out.).
North: Connecticut, Syracuse, Georgetown, Maryland, Villanova, Temple
South: Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Louisville, Florida, Georgia Tech
East: Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Xavier, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh
West: Kansas, Indiana, Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin, Missouri
West: Arizona, UCLA, UNLV, Utah, Stanford
South: Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Memphis, Oklahoma State, Alabama, LSU (Obviously one would have to go to the west, but good luck picking one.)
Finally, how about Top 40 and four conferences of 10? (15 wins minimum)
Big East: Kentucky, Connecticut, Louisville, Syracuse, Georgetown, Maryland, Villanova, Temple, Seton Hall, St. John's
Big Ten: Michigan State, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Purdue, Ohio State, Xavier, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin
ACC/SEC: Duke, North Carolina, Florida, Arkansas, Memphis, Missouri, Georgia Tech, Alabama, Wake Forest, LSU
Pac-10: Kansas, Arizona, UCLA, Oklahoma, Texas, UNLV, Oklahoma State, Utah, Stanford, Gonzaga
For the record, my cutoffs:
32: 18 or more NCAA wins.
36: 16 or more NCAA wins (with LSU and Missouri winning a tiebreaker over Wake Forest)
40: 15 or more NCAA wins.
64: Seven or more NCAA wins and seven or more NCAA appearances.
If your team should have made the top 32, 36, 40, or 64 based on the criteria but is not listed, please comment. I think my lists are correct, though.
No matter what, as a college basketball fan you can't lose. In addition to UNC-Duke, imagine Kentucky-Louisville (they should play twice a year). Better yet, how about UNC/Duke playing Kentucky? Or Connecticut and Syracuse?
Now let me say I am in no way interested in basketball going to a BCS system and excluding conferences and teams from the NCAA championship. I just like to see top competition during the regular season.
Of course, my college basketball conferences will get more bids to the NCAA Tournament, but don't certain conferences get more teams in the Big Dance now? And at least the teams in these conferences (32, 36, 40, or 64 versions) will be in the preferred conferences because of past success in college basketball, and teams like Rutgers, Northwestern, and Nebraska don't get the benefit of being in conferences they clearly have no business in (at least in terms of basketball).
Come on, college basketball fans, speak up! Last time I wrote an article about college realignment, the Big Ten, and basketball, I got 40 reads as of June 10 (it was posted May 14). Most of the ones I post that are football-oriented get a lot more reads (two of them got over 1,000).
Come on, we're a big time sport. People treat college basketball like it's field hockey or lacrosse! Give us our due! At least we know how to run a fair championship!
Just for the record: I'm not a fan of the school the man pictured is from; they just happen to be the reigning champs. I prefer the team from Chapel Hill.
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