Friday, November 30, 2012

Latest Conference Realignment: Two Points We've Learned And When It Will Stop

You won't see this image much longer, as Louisville is off to the ACC. (

It all seemed so clear three years ago.

The Big East was the powerhouse of college basketball conferences, with the ACC and Big 12 not far behind. Now the thought of who will be a member of the Big East in two years seems like a question fitting for Jeopardy! or a Magic 8-Ball.

As of this post's publishing, Louisville was the latest large athletic department to jump ship and head to the ACC. (I said "at the post's publishing" because it seems like a move happens every 12 minutes; I said "large athletic department" because Tulane's not shaking up people's lives like Syracuse; and I said "athletic department" because we all know this isn't about academics. It's about money generating from football and basketball.)

Fans want to know when it will stop, and most likely, the answer isn't any time soon, and not until one of the six major conferences no longer exists. The Big East is trying to stay above water after losing West Virginia and the eventual loss of Syracuse, Pitt and Louisville, but its emergency plan has turned it into Conference USA 2.0.

Instead of predicting the future, which is nearly impossible when involving conference realignment, let's talk about two points that we do know.

1.  ACC basketball is the new Big East
Think about where the Big East was a couple of years ago. The eighth and ninth best teams in the conference could still get into the NCAA Tournament (or win the National Title, if you're Big East Tournament ninth-seeded UCONN circa 2011) and the Big East Tournament was amazing to watch because great teams like Georgetown and Notre Dame could square off in a quarter-final game.

The ACC isn't quite as stacked from top to bottom, but this is not a league that will have a clear favorite every year. It already had arguably the greatest rivalry in the game with Duke and North Carolina, and now throws in Syracuse, Louisville and Pitt, who have all been near the top in the country in the past five years. Maybe even more impressive is the list of coaches now in the conference. Krzyzewski, Boeheim, Williams and Pitino all coaching against each other? If you're looking for a better group of Hall of Fame coaches, good luck finding it.

2. The old conference lineups are not coming back
We all get nostalgic thinking about the conference and the teams in it we grew up watching. While I wish the Big East wasn't crumbling and the Big 12 could have remained with 12 schools like it was when I was a kid, it will never be the same again. But 10 years after all this settles down, what we now view as new and weird will seem familiar. Until then, try not to get too attached. It really doesn't feel like many teams are safe from a move, and we've definitely learned that geography doesn't matter anymore (San Diego State in the Big East?). It doesn't seem right for Maryland to be in the Big Ten or Pitt to be in the ACC, but new opportunities and benefits will arise and new rivalries will form.

To expect the unexpected is the easiest mindset to be in as we wait and see what else shakes up, and until then, enjoy the conference your favorite team is in and try to find a silver lining in a possible move.

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