Conference Realignment Moves We Wish Would Happen in College Basketball

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystSeptember 25, 2014

Conference Realignment Moves We Wish Would Happen in College Basketball

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    USA TODAY Sports

    There isn't any college basketball conference realignment scheduled for next summer, but there are a few moves we would like to see.

    We certainly aren't complaining about the lack of conference realignment on the horizon. To the contrary, it's simply delightful to know we won't have to spend the summer of 2015 trying to remember which teams are now in which conferences.

    However, we aren't nearly naive enough to think there won't be more bursts of realignment at some point in the next few years.

    Rather than sitting back and just watching as great rivalry after rivalry is taken away from us in the name of football revenue, we've decided to proactively compromise by suggesting 10 acceptable moves.

    Please note that all of these suggestions are made only with men's college basketball in mind. College football and women's college basketball were disregarded in the interest of making the best possible men's college basketball conferences.

Missouri Tigers

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Move: Missouri leaves SEC and returns to the Big 12

    The Rationale

    This was the most frustrating conference realignment move of the past decade.

    Missouri vs. Kansas was just about the best rivalry in college basketball. Those two teams had been in the same conference since 1907, starting in the Missouri Valley before helping form the Big Six in 1928which eventually became the Big Seven, Big Eight and Big 12.

    Then, poof, the Tigers up and left for the SEC with no intentions of playing the Jayhawks again any time soon.

    Not only does the Big 12 seem incomplete without Missouri, but it still just doesn't feel right to see Missouri in the SEC.

    Other moves that occurred in the summer of 2012VCU to the A-10, TCU to the Big 12, Fresno State and Nevada to the Mountain Westalready fit like a glove. But Missouri in the SEC still sounds weird.

    Before it becomes an acquired taste, let's right this wrong and put Missouri back where it belongs.

Virginia Tech Hokies

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    The Move: Virginia Tech leaves ACC and joins American Athletic

    The Rationale

    Pray tell, Virginia Tech, what have you done to enhance the ACC's reputation as a great basketball conference?

    In 10 seasons, you have been to one NCAA tournament. You have yet to win a regular season or conference tournament title. Heck, you've never even played in an ACC Championship Game or finished in second place in the regular-season standings.

    You're 30 games below .500 in conference play since joining in 2004.

    And have you even made a rival in the ACC? You don't exactly get along with UVA, but that bad blood long predates your move to the ACC and has as much to do with high schoolers in the Commonwealth singing "If you can't go to college, go to Tech" to the tune of "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands" as it does an actual rivalry in sports.

    Long story short, Virginia Tech, you're the odd man outeven more so than Boston College.

    Whether you go to AAC, Atlantic-10, Big East or Conference USA is up to you. You're welcome to pull a reverse Notre Dame and stick around to help the ACC's strength in football, but it might be time for you to see other people on the hardwood.

Connecticut Huskies

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Connecticut leaves the AAC and joins the ACC

    The Rationale

    In the past 20 years, Connecticut has been to nine Elite Eights, five Final Fours and has won four national championships.

    In those same 20 years, the other 10 teams in the AAC have combined for seven Elite Eights and just one Final Four appearancewhich Memphis was later forced to vacate.

    You may want to believe that the recently formed AAC is a major conference, but the Huskies sure are carrying a lot of the weight. And at some point in the not-so-distant future, it's going to come back to bite them.

    It was just a little over a decade ago that Conference USA was routinely sending four teams to the NCAA tournament. After a bunch of the top teams left, it was Memphis-or-bust for several years. Because the Tigers just kept beating up on disrespected teams, they became unappreciated.

    Connecticut's best chance of avoiding that same fate is by joining former Big East rivals like Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Louisville in the ACC.

    The Huskies would be far less likely to win 30 games on an annual basis, but they would also have a better shot at top recruits and national championships.

    As if they haven't had enough of both lately.

Hawaii Warriors

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    Eugene Tanner/Associated Press

    The Move: Hawaii leaves Big West to become "Independent"

    The Rationale

    If Hawaii has to be in a conference, then, sure, the Big West makes sense. Eight of the nine teams in the conference are from California, and Hawaii is closer to California than any other state.

    However, did you know that the straight distance from Honolulu to San Diego is 30 miles more than the straight distance from San Diego to Boston?

    It would be completely insane to suggest that Stanford join the Ivy League, but for some reason we're cool with making these teams in California fly roughly 3,000 miles into the Pacific Ocean every year?

    We're not suggesting that Hawaii never gets to host teams again, but what if the Warriors bounced around between conferences on a four-year rotation? One year, they're in the Big West. Then, they go to the WAC, the WCC and the MWC.

    It's a bummer that they have to fly to the mainland over and over again throughout the course of the season, but it's even more unfair that the California schools are the only ones that get to go to Hawaii during the winter.

NJIT Highlanders

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    The Move: NJIT goes from Independent to literally any conference

    The Rationale

    Assuming the Hawaii argument on the previous slide never comes to fruition, it hardly seems fair that 350 teams are aligned to a conference while the New Jersey Institute of Technology is the only D-I school without a home.

    If nothing else, it just looks absurd to see a one-team conference in the standingsespecially right next to the 14-team Conference USA.

    At least the WCC pretends there are other teams in the conference aside from Gonzaga.

    You might think that an institute of technology has no business being on a basketball court, but the Highlanders can ball.

    Two years ago, they played road games against Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's and Villanova. They lost all four games, but not one of them was decided by more than 10 points.

    Put them in the CAA or MEAC, and they'll be in the NCAA tournament within five years.

Northwestern Wildcats

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Northwestern leaves Big Ten for Missouri Valley

    The Rationale

    No city does lovable losers quite as well as Chicago, but Northwestern deserves a home where it might actually make the NCAA tournament once every 75 years.

    It would be a wonderful story if the Wildcats could finally dance while still in the Big Ten, but they haven't been above .500 in conference play since the 1967-68 season. In the 46 years since then they have a conference record of 183-601.

    This isn't a drought. This is irrefutable evidence that Northwestern will never flourish in this conference.

    Though the Wildcats can't succeed against the likes of Illinois, Indiana and Iowa, there's hope for them against Southern Illinois, Indiana State and Northern Iowa.

    If they want to come back to the Big Ten after a few years in the tournament, we're open to the discussion. But every school should dance at some point in its history.

Gonzaga Bulldogs

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Gonzaga leaves the WCC and joins the Pac-12

    The Rationale

    Take everything you just read about Northwestern and flip it on its head.

    After repeatedly proving that they're good enough to transition from mid-major to middle-of-the-road major, Butler, Creighton, Memphis, Temple, VCU and Xavier each made the leap to a better conference in recent years.

    But Gonzaga is still in the WCC, effectively playing its 20th consecutive season of a Madden franchise on the rookie difficulty level.

    Mark Few has the highest winning percentage of any active head coach in men's basketball, but we'd be more impressed if he won fewer games in a real conference.

    Where Northwestern can't seem to buy a win in the Big Ten, it has been 17 years since Gonzaga lost more than three games in WCC play. In Few's 15 seasons there, the Zags have a conference record of 194-24 (89.0 winning percentage)not including the 11 conference tournament titles.

    Perhaps playing more games against better opponents would even allow Gonzaga to finally advance past the Sweet 16 for the first time under Few.

Oregon State Beavers

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Oregon State leaves the Pac-12 and joins the WCC

    The Rationale

    We need to have some sort of corresponding move to make room for Gonzaga, right?

    While Gonzaga has made a complete mockery of the tournament selection process over the past two decades, Oregon State hasn't been invited to the dance since 1990thanks in large part to just one season with more than 18 wins in the past 24 years.

    Take away the nonconference portion of the season, and things get even bleaker.

    Since the start of the 1993-94 season, the Beavers have gone 103-275 in the Pac-10/Pac-12. Not once in those 21 seasons did they finish at or above .500 in conference play.

    We can appreciate that Oregon State has been a part of this conference for 50 years and that the Beavers had a nice stretch of seasons in the 1980s. But a quarter-century of poor play has to be considered grounds for "expulsion."

    Perhaps they can rediscover some magic in the WCC and even spark a rivalry with Portland.

West Virginia Mountaineers

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: West Virginia leaves the Big 12 and returns to its rightful home in the Big East

    The Rationale

    Have you looked at a map of the Big 12 schools lately?

    Iowa State looks a little out of place after the departures of Missouri and Nebraska, but the Cyclones are still right there in the western half of the Central time zone with the eight Big 12 schools in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

    And then there's West Virginia.

    If you and a friend left Morgantown at the same timeyou driving east and your friend driving westyou could get to Baltimore, come back to campus, realize you left something in Baltimore and make the trip a second time before your friend even arrives at the nearest Big 12 school in Ames, Iowa.

    It's not quite as insane as the former discussions of Boise State joining the Big East, but it's pretty idiotic that West Virginia is part of what is otherwise a relatively tight-knit community of schools.

    Rivalries don't have to be born from proximity, but it's tough to see WVU developing the type of bad blood it could with Georgetown, Xavier or any of the other options in the Big East.

Duquesne Dukes and Fordham Rams

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Duquesne and Fordham leave A-10 and join Patriot League

    The Rationale

    The A-10 is so close to being nationally recognized as a major basketball conference, but it's difficult to take the conference seriously when it gets so many free wins per season against Duquesne and Fordham.

    Over the past 19 seasons, the Dukes and Rams have a combined record of 381-727 (.344 winning percentage) and a conference record of 164-434 (.274 winning percentage). Take away the .500 record that they have in the 35 or so times they've played each other, and those percentages drop even lower.

    Every game against these two teams is an RPI nightmare for the rest of the conference. Beat them by less than 30 points each and we're left to wonder how good you actually are. Just look how quickly Saint Louis fell from grace after losing at home to Duquesne last year.

    Fordham and Duquesne have each made just one NCAA tournament appearance in the last 43 years. Neither has appeared in the AP rankings since 1972.

    They both have a better chance of dancing in a conference like the Patriot League, and the A-10 has a much better chance of consistently producing tournament-worthy resumes without them.

    Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You should follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.


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