Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Your Cheat Sheet for NCAA Hoops Conference Re-alignment

With the start of college basketball season rapidly approaching (16 days!), I thought it would be helpful to put together a cheat sheet of all the conference re-alignments affecting the upcoming season. Last year, it took me at least a month to come to terms with the fact that Nebraska and Colorado were no longer in the Big 12, and to figure out where exactly they went; so we’re going to be a little more proactive this year and figure that all out before the games begin.

First, the easy ones – 15 Conferences that haven’t changed from last season to this season:

ACC - though there are certainly big changes on the horizon
America East
Big Ten
Missouri Valley
Pac 12
West Coast

16 Conferences with changes:

     Atlantic 10 – Added Butler and Virginia Commonwealth.

Not only are they now indisputably the best non-BCS conference, but the A-10 is also indisputably the most egregious counting offender. It’s annoying that the Big 10 has 12 teams and that the Big 12 has 10 teams, but having 16 teams and calling yourself the Atlantic 10? Come on.

     Atlantic Sun – Lost Belmont; added Northern Kentucky.

If you’re having trouble remembering what conference Northern Kentucky was in last season, it’s likely because they weren’t a Division I school last season. So to recap, the A-Sun is looking to replace Belmont – the school that has represented this conference in the NCAA Tournament for 5 of the past 7 seasons – with a school that won’t even be tournament eligible for the next 4 years. I’m sure it’ll work out just fine.

     Big 12 – Lost Missouri and Texas A&M; added TCU and West Virginia.

It’s a shame that the Kansas and Missouri rivalry is now dead, but I’ll be interested to see how TCU and Texas Tech take turns going winless in the conference each season.

     Big East – Lost West Virginia (and Connecticut is not eligible for post-season play).

If there’s a silver lining to all this conference re-alignment, it’s that we’ll no longer have to despise greater than 50% of the head coaches in the Big East. Calhoun retired. Huggy Bear is in the Big 12. Boeheim will be in the ACC in 12 months. Now if only we could convince Louisville to leave the Big East…

     Big Sky – Added North Dakota and Southern Utah.

Because, when you have multiple 25-7 teams in a season and neither of them is even remotely worthy of an at-large bid, the obvious solution is to add a few more bottom feeders from the Summit conference and a Great West conference that isn’t even really a conference. Well done, Big Sky! That’ll show the selection committee you should be taken seriously.

     Big South – Added Longwood.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

     Big West – Added Hawaii.

Rumor has it that as part of the deal, Hawaii will be required to change its name to “UC Cal,” just to ensure the nation continues referring to conference games as being between “Long Beach State” and “Not Long Beach State.”

     Colonial Athletic Association – Lost Virginia Commonwealth.

This might actually be a good thing for the CAA’s chances of multiple tournament bids, as the top 2 or 3 teams will be more capable of distinguishing themselves as the cream of the crop, as opposed to the past 2 seasons where it’s been a cluster of 4 or 5 teams systematically knocking each other down a peg in between taking turns shitting on Towson and William & Mary.

     Horizon – Lost Butler.

Contrary to the CAA, this cements the Horizon’s status as a 1-bid league for the foreseeable future.

     Mountain West – Added Nevada and Fresno State; lost TCU.

Addition by subtraction…and addition. Since joining the MWC before the 2005-06 season, TCU has not once finished in the top 50% of the conference standings. Meanwhile, Nevada has been on the cusp of being a non-BCS conference powerhouse for most of the past decade. From top to bottom, the Mountain West should once again be one of the best conferences in the nation.

     Ohio Valley – Added Belmont.

I think they dropped the ball here by putting Murray State and Belmont in separate divisions, but I’ll certainly be looking forward to their conference championship showdown with a combined record of 59-8. If either Austin Peay or Morehead State decides to re-establish itself as a competent Division I team, the Ohio Valley could become just as interesting as the Missouri Valley.

     SEC – Added Missouri and Texas A&M.

For the past 8 years or so, greatness in the SEC has been limited to Kentucky and Florida for sure, Tennessee and Vanderbilt usually, LSU randomly, and Alabama pretending. The other six teams have been, by and large, cannon fodder. A&M might end up falling into the fodder, but adding Missouri makes the SEC the BCS-conference re-alignment champions-until-the-ACC-adds-the-entire-Big-East-within-two-years. It won’t be as good as KU/Mizzou, but I have no problem with watching Missouri/Florida twice per season. It’ll be nice to see those high scoring games for a change.

     Southland – Added Oral Roberts; lost Texas-Arlington, Texas State, and UTSA.

These moves upgrade the Southland conference from an F- to a solid D, which might just be enough for them to avoid a play-in game for the first time in 3 seasons. And the most likely candidate to replace them in the annual play-in games is…

     Summit League – Added Nebraska Omaha; lost Oral Roberts and Southern Utah.

With Oral Roberts out of the picture and Nate Wolters back for his senior season, it would be a colossal upset if anyone other than South Dakota State emerged from this woebegone group of teams.

     Sun Belt – Lost Denver.

Western Kentucky or bust.

     WAC – Added Denver, Seattle, Texas State, Texas-Arlington, and UTSA; lost Nevada, Hawaii, and Fresno St.

The WAC apparently saw conference re-alignment as a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos, roping in any stray marbles they could find. What was once a decent-not-great conference is now a sad state of affairs.

Let's summarize all that so it's actually a cheat sheet:

Belmont - Left Atlantic Sun, Joined Ohio Valley
Butler - Left Horizon, Joined Atlantic 10
Denver - Left Sun Belt, Joined WAC
Fresno State and Nevada - Left WAC, Joined Mountain West
Hawaii - Left WAC, Joined Big West
Longwood - Previously Independent, Joined Big South
Missouri and Texas A&M - Left Big 12, Joined SEC
Nebraska-Omaha - New D1 school, Joined Summit
North Dakota - Left Great West, Joined Big Sky
Northern Kentucky - New D1 school, Joined Atlantic Sun
Oral Roberts - Left Summit, Joined Southland
Seattle - Previously Independent, Joined WAC
Southern Utah - Left Summit, Joined Big Sky
Texas-Arlington, Texas State, and UTSA - Left Southland, Joined WAC
TCU - Left Mountain West, Joined Big 12
Virginia Commonwealth - Left CAA, Joined Atlantic 10
West Virginia - Left Big East, Joined Big 12

Got all that? Me neither. But I promise not to judge you if you forget which conference Southern Utah went to or came from.

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