clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Big Ten Expansion and Basketball

Good posts here (Ballin' is a Habit) and here (ESPN College Bball Blog) on the hard, cold fact that basketball is almost a complete non-factor in the current conference expansion/realignment calculations/maneuvering.  (Example: It's entirely possible that Kansas, one of the most six most storied college basketball programs of all time, could end up stuck in some sort of glorified Conference USA by the time this thing fully shakes out.)

As the top basketball dog in the Big Ten, Michigan State is the current conference member with the most to lose from an expansion outcome that ignores basketball implications.  But, as I think it through, I'm not terribly worried.  First, as I've previously asserted, a more heterogenous mix of conference opponents could be of benefit to an MSU basketball program that is perennially preparing itself for an NCAA Tournament run.

Second, even it's only by accident, the prognosis for adding a good mix of basketball programs looks pretty good under almost any Big Ten expansion scenario.  Here's the list of plausible Big Ten expandees, sorted by basketball prowess:

National Powers

Solid Programs
Texas A&M
Notre Dame

Bottom Dwellers
Iowa State

(Pitt really belongs somewhere in between those first two categories--very consistent success but not yet a national title contender.  I'm not including Maryland and Boston College as candidates--although both would be fine basketball additions.)

If the Big Ten only adds one team, it won't be a national basketball power--Notre Dame and Nebraska are the two football programs that would make a one-and-done move worth it--but it wouldn't result in a dramatic shift in the league's basketball profile either.

If the conference adds three or five teams, it would likely involve one of the national powers and one of the two "solids"--or perhaps two "solids" (Pitt/Missouri).  The worst case scenario would probably be the TV-focused Nebraska/Rutgers/Syracuse scenario Frank the Tank mentioned in his last post.  You'd add a national power but also get two bottom dwellers in that scenario.  (Worst, worst case scenario would be if Syracuse absolutely refused to join, and the Big Ten went ahead with a Nebraska/Rutgers/Missouri plan--but I have a hard time seeing how that's a better move from a football standpoint than just adding Nebraska or going all the way with five new teams.)

Meanwhile, the Pac 10's rumored six-team gambit creates some interesting basketball possibilities, with Texas and Texas A&M suddenly in play again and Kansas as a potential back-end fill-in of a desperate-to-get-in-somewhere variety in a five-team scenario.  (In a five-team scenario, wouldn't it be worth using one slot for a nationally-contending basketball program that would be a major ratings boost to the BTN from November to March?)

Really, if you take the two Texas schools out of the equation (still seems like an enormous stretch to me), the list of candidates above has more total basketball potential than it does football potential.  So, if you're going to fret about Big Ten expansion, fret about the part that's actually driving the economics here--the football.

(On that note, I can't decide whether I'd be more upset if we didn't get to play Ohio State in football almost every year or if we were forced to play them every year because of the rivalry they maintain with our friends in Ann Arbor.)