College Basketball: Which Conferences Will Be Helped or Hurt by Realignment?
Everyone has heard about the recent shake-ups across college conferences. Most of these powerhouse programs are leaving their current conference for more money in another—particularly because of football.
The basketball programs have not been swept under the rug, however. Every team is looking for greener pastures. Some will find them; some will not.
From a conference perspective, each are hoping for better television ratings and markets their current teams do not possess.
For example, one of the reasons the SEC added Texas A&M was for the Texas television market.
Multiple other conferences are scrambling to add programs that they would benefit the most from having. Which conferences will be able to weather this realignment storm and come out better than ever? And which conferences will be left in the dust?
Note: There are some facts in this article, but most of these ideas are based off of speculation and rumors.
Are you kidding? Adding Syracuse and Pittsburgh will drastically improve an already impressive basketball conference.
With Syracuse, Pittsburgh, North Carolina and Duke, the ACC will boast arguably the best top four basketball schools compared to any other conference.
The only chance of the ACC's basketball reputation sliding is if North Carolina leaves for the SEC, but that's a definite long shot.
Talks of adding Notre Dame are there, but that's far from happening as well.
The Big East is hurt and is bleeding profusely in regards to their basketball programs. They have already lost West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse—and may lose more.
Louisville is looking to move to the Big 12. If the ACC expands to 16 teams (or loses one of their current teams, like Florida State), the teams they will add will most likely be from the Big East. Connecticut seems to be first in line, which would be another huge loss.
Adding teams like Houston, Central Florida and Southern Methodist are tadpoles compared to the big fish the Big East lost to the ACC and the Big 12. If they want to gain back some of the basketball prestige that they lost, adding a team like Xavier would definitely help.
The Big East will keep basketball-only schools Marquette, Georgetown, St. John's, Providence, Seton Hall and Villanova, so it's not like the Big East will be irrelevant, but they are hurting badly.
The Big Ten already expanded with the addition of Nebraska last year. They added spiffy new division names, Legends and Leaders, but otherwise remain the same. The Big Ten embodies consistency and stability, and their teams reflect that.
If Notre Dame was to look for a conference to join for football, they would fit in perfectly in the Big Ten. Notre Dame also sports a great basketball program, which would improve a conference already full of basketball talent.
The Big 12 lost Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC, two teams that are above-average at basketball. In return, they have received West Virginia and TCU. Not a bad trade, but not great for future prospects.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have been rumored to be heading West to the Pac-12, and that would be a significant blow.
Kansas and Baylor are great basketball programs, but subpar in the football department. An addition of Louisville would bolster the prestige of the Big 12 in college basketball.
Overall, the Big 12 may lose quite a bit of their luster in football, but in basketball, their quality of teams will be roughly the same.
The Pacific-12 has steadily declined in basketball with the decline of UCLA basketball. They are still a great football conference but are a mediocre basketball conference at best.
Currently, California is the only representative of the Pac-12 in the top 25. Arizona has left much to be desired, and UCLA is 2-4 after starting the season ranked 17th in the AP poll.
If the Pac-12 were to add teams from the Big 12, they could see an increase in the skill of their basketball teams. For now, they remain a four-bid (at best) conference for the NCAA tournament.
How could the SEC be hurt?
In basketball, the SEC has been somewhat lagging. It's obviously a football conference, but with teams like Kentucky, Alabama, Vanderbilt and Florida, basketball is on the rise.
Adding Texas A&M and Missouri should solidify the basketball programs in the SEC West.
The SEC is unlikely to expand to 16, but if they do, additions like North Carolina and Florida State would help both basketball and football prestige in the conference.
The prospect of four "Super-Conferences" does not bode well for conferences like the Atlantic 10, Conference USA and the Mountain West.
Xavier and Memphis represent interesting options for expanding conferences, as they are consistently among the top 25 teams in college basketball.
Granted, when the NCAA tournament begins, all teams have a shot.
Unfortunately for these schools, strength of schedule plays a large factor in determining seeding, as well as who gets in and who is taken out.
These smaller conferences will have pitiful strength of schedules in conference play, so most of their work to impress the selection committee will have to be done in non-conference play.