|With conference alignment in full swing, we predict who will leave the Big East next. (businessinsider.com)|
BDD's Friday Roundtable is a weekly discussion among three of our writers on a trending NBA or college basketball topic.
This week's question: Conference realignment continues putting schools on the move, and the Big East has been hurt the most by the changes. Who will be the next team to leave the Big East?
The mad dash of conference realignment is picking up once again and the Big East is the focal point for the NCAA. The conference’s schools are leaving left and right, and the next one to jump from the sinking ship will be the Cincinnati Bearcats. Cincinnati’s basketball team is currently sitting at 9-0 this season. The Bearcats also had a solid year in football this season at 9-3 and 5-2 in conference play. They have historically been a good program with an undefeated year in football in 2009-2010, and a run to the Sweet 16 last March. This is a quality program that will not be given any recognition for any accomplishments it may attain, because it resides in a conference without any prestigious schools left. Cincinnati is going to need to move as well if it wants to gain national accolades once again.
I agree Cincinnati probably has the most momentum and attractive teams at the moment that another conference would want, but I'm going to say UConn is the next to leave. UConn wanted out of the Big East when Syracuse and Pittsburgh jumped ship, but got left behind. Still, UConn probably has the biggest brand of the remaining Big East schools and has a lot of recent basketball and some football success. And even though the Connecticut market isn't huge, the school is still close to NYC and other metropolitan cities. With UConn's former conference opponents Syracuse and Pitt in the ACC, I could see the ACC bringing in the Huskies and one other school to round out the conference. UConn has said it wants to be in the ACC, and I think eventually their wish will come true.
Georgetown foiled my original answer by deciding yesterday that it will leave the conference along with the six other Catholic institutions. You just couldn't wait a couple more days, could you, Hoyas?
Cincinnati and UConn certainly are the front runners to find better perches before their current Big East peers -- although South Florida will probably be on their heels, given the Bulls' basketball and football competitiveness earlier in the 2000s that has declined in recent years, which makes them a perfect target for a mid-major conference.
Of the leading schools, though, I think Cincinnati will abandon ship before UConn. Football drives conference realignment and the Bearcats' gridiron resume is much stronger than the on-again-off-again flirtation with success that can be found in Storrs. The sad reality is that a strong basketball program is just consolation, although the Bearcats will compete for a mid- to high conference finish no matter where they end up. Cincinnati also has the edge in geographical location -- a laughable notion at this point, considering the Big East's present alignment and Maryland's foray into the Big Ten -- because it sits nearer the middle of the country. Conferences that have been reticent to expand far beyond current borders, like the Big 12 (save West Virginia), will recognize this appeal. So will the Atlantic 10, a surging hoops-only league that would give a school like Cincinnati the chance to immediately contend for a conference title while shopping its football program elsewhere.
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