2010 NBA Free Agency: How LeBron James Could Impact Big Ten Expansion

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IJune 7, 2010

CLEVELAND - MAY 11:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on while playing the Boston Celtics in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 11, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio. Boston won the game 120-88 to take a 3-2 series lead. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

There are a number of great barstool arguments going on in the world of sports right now, and perhaps the two biggest could be tied together.

The first hot topic in sports is NBA free agency in the coming summer. Some of the best players in the game, including Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and LeBron James will headline a deep list of very good, young players that will be looking for the best situation for themselves.

James is arguably the most important player of his generation, and is already carrying the news through the NBA Finals despite being eliminated weeks ago. From the John Calipari rumors to the Delonte West "issue," James is a constant center of attention. The Cleveland Cavaliers have already fired their head coach and their general manager subsequently "resigned" in what appears to be a complete housecleaning by the Cavs ownership to make LeBron happy.

The latest rumor tied to Cleveland is that the Cavs have extended an invitation to Michigan State coach Tom Izzo to at least gauge the interest of one of the NCAA's most respected and successful coaches.

Izzo has said he doesn't want to leave MSU until he wins another national championship, but the possibility to coach arguably the best player in the game today is the best opportunity Izzo could get in the NBA. If the Cavs hired Izzo, he would undoubtedly have to be assured that LeBron would be part of Cleveland's roster on Opening Night this fall.

If Izzo leaves MSU for Cleveland, it could impact another major storyline in sports.

Both the Pac-10 and Big Ten conferences are talking about expansion right now, and each have started to throw some major names around the rumor mill. Expansion talks started earlier this spring surrounding the Big Ten, but it was the Pac-10 that jumped to the forefront of the discussion in the last couple weeks.

The Pac-10 has allegedly made offers to nearly half of the Big 12, including the bell-cow of college football (pun intended), Texas. The Pac-10 also reportedly has interest in Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State.

Meanwhile, the Big Ten appears to be in position to cherry pick from the other schools in the Big 12. Both Nebraska and Missouri have been rumored to be on the Big Ten's radar, but news on Monday is that the Big Ten's eyes are centered on Notre Dame. Nebraska, from all indications, is ready and willing to join the Big Ten if asked. 

So how do LeBron and the Big Ten get mixed up?

Consider the implications on not just the Big Ten, but college basketball nationally if Izzo leaves Michigan State.

Suddenly a Big Ten conference that has already been bashed nationally as being soft, and just a two or three team conference in recent years loses it's best coach. Now the Big Ten is struggling to keep up with the ACC, SEC, Big East and Pac-10 in basketball to get bids for March Madness.

Now let's circle back to the expansion discussion that has largely been centered around football teams. One school that's stuck on the outside looking in from all of these discussions is a Big 12 school that, geographically, doesn't fit very well into the Pac-10 and hasn't been rumored to be on the Big Ten's radar—Kansas.

One of the elite basketball schools in the nation could be in a desperate position if the Big 12 dissolves. Moving from a conference with Texas' big-time schools and Oklahoma's two winning institutions to the Mountain West would be a huge hit to the prestige of Kansas.

The Jayhawks wouldn't be thrilled about building rivalries with Utah, BYU, and potentially Boise State to replace Mizzou, Texas, Baylor, and Oklahoma.

So perhaps Kansas is the remedy to a potential nightmare for the Big Ten, bringing a prestigious program into the fold to keep the Big Ten in the nation's eyes in the wake of Izzo departing.

By now I'm sure there are Illinois grads foaming at the mouth. Any chance to get Bill Self back to Champaign is a welcome chance to tell "the turncoat" what the Orange Crush thinks of him. And that could create a great rivalry for Kansas right away.

Izzo hasn't left Michigan State, and LeBron hasn't decided to stay in Cleveland—not yet. But if those two dominoes fall, Kansas to the Big Ten could be a third.

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